The Working Capitol expands footprint to Robinson Road

/ The Edge Property |
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At 1 Keong Saik Road, the entrance to The Working Capitol coworking space is from the cafe on the first level. The cafe is a joint venture between The Working Capitol and the hospitality company Lo & Behold Group.
When The Working Capitol opened in March 2015, co-founders Ben Gattie and his sister Suranta did not have any expectations of the type of companies they wanted to have in it. “We just wanted to create a shared work environment that was conducive,” says Gattie, CEO of The Working Capitol. “So it was random.”
As it turned out, the randomness of the businesses that occupy the space has spawned a vibrant community. Today, the centre has more than 70 companies and 350 members who come from a broad mix of industries and range in size from one-person operations to companies with up to 40 staff. “And we’re consciously doing that to keep it interesting,” says Gattie. “Whether they are upsizing or downsizing, we can accommodate their needs. Our occupancy always hovers around 100%.”
The café at The Working Capitol on Keong Saik Road
Wide range of businesses
Many of the businesses at The Working Capitol have been members from the start. They include personal financial planner, which began with just one person taking up a work desk. Today, the company has seven people working out of a private workspace at the building on Keong Saik Road. “We have quite a few companies like that,” says Gattie.
The work desks at The Working Capitol on Keong Saik Road
Other companies that are members include a company specialising in flavoured ice, a local production house and a number of tech companies, from Swedish television applications provider Accedo to US e-payment enabler Stripe, which began operations in Singapore in September and was recently valued at US$5 billion ($7.2 billion).
The Working Capitol at 1 Keong Saik Road occupies five adjoining three-storey shophouses that have a total floor space of 33,000 sq ft. The shophouses, which are conserved, were completely gutted and overhauled.
“As and when we had the opportunity, we took up the immediate [neighbouring shophouses] because we needed more space,” says Gattie. That led to The Working Capitol occupying the second level of the shophouse across the road, above a coffee shop. It is now a private workspace for a 25-strong company. The combined floor space of The Working Capitol at Keong Saik Road is about 40,000 sq ft.
Gattie: If you look at the options out there, they are a reflection of the people behind them and what they can contribute
Repositioning assets
Before he ventured into the coworking space, Gattie founded a boutique property development and investment company, The Bamboo Group.
The Bamboo Group now has a portfolio of more than 20 shophouses, including a few on Amoy Street, Club Street and Tras Street in the CBD. It also owns shophouses on Tanjong Katong Road, South Buona Vista and Jalan Jurong Kechil.
Gattie founded The Bamboo Group seven years ago after returning from New York where he had worked with a boutique developer who specialised in building conversions.
The first two years at The Bamboo Group was spent on acquisitions and repositioning shophouses. Gattie enjoyed the design process and also in finding “first of its kind” F&B players. However, as the business is now focused on property management, Gattie has handed over the reins to his mother.
The 32-year-old Gattie was born to a British father and Singaporean mother of Indian descent. He grew up in Singapore, but pursued his education in Los Angeles, and worked in New York before returning home in 2009. He is now focusing full time on growing the business of The Working Capitol.
After achieving full occupancy at The Working Capitol on Keong Saik Road, Gattie started looking for a second site. In early December, the company announced that its second coworking and lifestyle space will be at 140 Robinson Road, where it will occupy 55,000 sq ft of space across 11 floors. Called The Working Capitol on Robinson, it is the anchor tenant in the 19-storey building that until then was known as Crown @ Robinson.
Just as The Working Capitol at Keong Saik Road has taken up the entire building, Gattie’s The Working Capitol on Robinson is occupying all the retail space and a substantial portion of the office space at the office tower. The space will give him the flexibility to accommodate businesses ranging from a one-person set-up to those with 200 employees, he says.
Some levels will be dedicated to a single organisation; for instance, RHB Bank is taking up an entire floor for a fintech lab. Another whole floor will be occupied by a “tech unicorn” with 100 people. Other businesses that have signed on include healthcare organisations, property companies and educational institutions.
‘Hipster vibe’
According to Sulian Claire, Savills Singapore senior director for retail and lifestyle, having two different coworking concepts in different locations works. Claire found the sites at 1 Keong Saik Road and Crown @ Robinson on 140 Robinson Road for The Working Capitol. “Shophouses can be very ‘indie’, creative with a hipster vibe that millennials can identify with,” she says. “If your coworking office is in Keong Saik Road, you can literally stroll into a weekend party along Keong Saik with your coworking mates, go bar hopping and network with new business acquaintances all at the same time.”
These days, however, even office buildings are becoming “swankier”, says Claire, with amenities such as swimming pools, roof decks, boutique gyms, bars or cafes “for a more holistic coworking environment”. Besides F&B outlets, other lifestyle amenities at The Working Capitol on Robinson will include a 20m outdoor lap pool, a boutique, a sky garden, bar and members’ lounge. There will also be an event space for rent and areas set aside for regular member gatherings. “There’s a big lifestyle element here,” says Gattie. “Co working is just one part of what we do and it’s important to have that connection with the street.”
The event space at The Working Capitol on Keong Saik Road can accommodate up to 200 people
He believes The Working Capitol on Robinson Road will fill a void in the old part of the CBD, primarily Robinson Road and Cecil Street.
With more niche players, developers and even serviced office operators entering the coworking space, Gattie expects there will be consolidation in the future. What is also changing is the definition of coworking. “If you look at the options out there, they are a reflection of the people behind them and what they can contribute,” he observes.
This article appeared in The Edge Property Pullout, Issue 760 (Dec 26, 2016) of The Edge Singapore.

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