The future will be flexible.
That is what Office Evolution founder and CEO Mark Hemmeter believed when he launched the office space company in Colorado in 2003, and 16 years later, his bet has paid off in the form of overseeing a franchisor that now has 62 locations across the U.S.
Office Evolution is now bringing what it calls a workplace revolution to Herndon with a 6,400 square-foot center on Van Buren Street that opened on Mar. 15, becoming the company’s second franchise in Fairfax County along with an existing Tysons Corner location.
“We think the Northern Virginia market is fantastic, and we're very excited to have a location there,” Hemmeter said.
Owned by local entrepreneur Martin Gruszka, a Polish immigrant who came to the U.S. when he was a teenager, Office Evolution Herndon is located within 10 minutes of the future Herndon Silver Line Metro station and will serve small businesses in Reston, Ashburn, Sterling, and Chantilly as well as Herndon.
Like its counterparts around the country, Office Evolution’s Herndon center provides private office space, conference rooms, shared work spaces, and other business services, such as live phone answering, a remote receptionist, and an address for receiving mail.
Clients rent rooms and services on an hourly or monthly basis as an alternative to obtaining long-term, fixed office space, which Hemmeter says can be difficult to find and expensive for small businesses.
The son of a political refugee who brought his family to Northern Virginia, Gurszaka previously worked as a technology professional with experience in information technology management, software development, and project management and leadership.
He says that professional background helped him see the appeal of Office Evolution when he started contemplating opening his own business.
“Business owners and entrepreneurs need workspace to conduct their business,” Gruszka said. “In my career, I have been fortunate to have been exposed to consultants, startups, and the creative workforce. I participated in this workforce myself, so I understand the needs of a small-time technology consultant or a professional meeting at Starbucks.”
According to the industry publication Coworking Insights, the modern concept of coworking primarily grew out of the technology world in the 1990s as the advent of the Internet meant that computer engineers and other workers no longer had to operate out of the same fixed location.
Software developer Brad Neuberg is widely credited with founding the first official coworking space in 2005.
Frustrated with his day job at a start-up, Neuberg wanted to combine the freedom of freelance work with the sense of community fostered by an office, and he got the opportunity to try out his idea when a friend offered him the opportunity to rent space at the feminist collective Spiral Muse in San Francisco, Calif., he says in a blog post.
That one room in San Francisco has since spawned an entire industry with companies like Office Evolution and the New York-based WeWork venturing into coworking.
“It’s on-demand office space, so our client doesn't have to make a long-term commitment or worry about buying furniture or setting up internet,” Hemmeter said. “It’s all there ready to go…That also gives them a lot of flexibility if they ever need to leave or grow or shrink.”
According to a study conducted by the publication CoworkingResources, an estimated 2,188 new spaces opened globally in 2018, including 991 spaces in the U.S. While growth is projected to be slower, 2019 is still expected to bring another 696 spaces to the U.S. and 1,688 worldwide.
Flexible or shared office space has become a primary growth driver in the office market with an annual 23 percent growth rate since 2010, according to the commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated.
JLL published a research report on Jan. 22 that found flexible space accounted for more than two-thirds of the U.S.’s office market occupancy gains in 2018 and projected that it will make up a full third of the market by 2030, though it currently still constitutes less than 5 percent.
JLL named Northern Virginia as the sixth most-promising market for flexible space, citing the region’s sizable technology and government contractor workforces and economic activity spurred by Amazon’s impending move to Arlington as attractive factors even with the limited availability of flexible housing stock.
Office Evolution caters specifically to small business owners, and Hemmeter admits that the arrival of Amazon will likely lead to a tighter real estate market in Northern Virginia, as the online retail giant takes over vacant spaces in the area.
However, Amazon could also benefit a company like Office Evolution by bringing in suppliers and other businesses to support or work with the larger corporation, Hemmeter says.
The Tysons and new Herndon locations are only the beginning of Office Evolution’s plans for the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Hemmeter hopes to establish at least 20 centers in the region with eight to 10 centers in Northern Virginia alone, along with five or six in Maryland and D.C. Right now, the company has nearly 80 locations in various stages of development throughout the U.S.
“There’s just a lot of very motivated and exciting entrepreneurs and small business owners there,” Hemmeter said. “…We find that dynamic markets actually become more dynamic over time, and Northern Virginia is a great example of that. It’s a great place to work and a great place to grow a business.”