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New & Next: Shared Spaces Strategies

Tim Reinen of Radian, Inc. explains why nonprofits and mission-based businesses need to integrate into the shared space model. 
Metro Denver's population grew by 58,474 residents between July 2014 and July 2015, to a total of 2.8 million. While many dedicated professionals and community activists are rightfully focused on providing affordable housing to newcomers as well as long-time residents in the Denver metro area, little focus has been paid to the rapidly rising cost of commercial real estate space.

According to the 2015 Nonprofit Space Survey, nonprofit organizations in the Denver metro area reported paying on average $11.57 per square foot for their current office space, while market rates in metro Denver were $22.16 per square foot for Class B office space. Additionally, that cost increased more than $1 per square foot in the second half of 2016.

Organizations focused on delivering their mission can rarely dedicate precious time to consider the following questions: Will I lose my current space after the current lease expires? What will happen to our organization if the space that was donated to us is sold? Even if our space is safe at affordable rates for the foreseeable future, is its current location most advantageous to serve a client base whose housing location is rapidly shifting throughout the Denver metro area? This is what we at Denver Shared Spaces (DSS) are focusing on.

The sharing economy concept has reached a pinnacle status in the U.S. not because it's fashionable, but rather it makes logistical sense. Nonprofits and mission-based businesses are constantly looking for tactics to lower operational costs. So it begs the question, why does every commercial space need its own, separated amenities and facilities? This was the exact idea that DSS helped facilitate with Clayton Early Learning and its associated tenants. Our team completed needs assessments via tenant focus groups and implemented space design plans to accommodate for increased shared services for the historic campus. It allowed for the nonprofit groups to utilize their space more efficiently, lower operating costs and enhance work flow.

DSS is a program under Radian, Inc. that uses shared spaces as a tool to creatively and strategically connect community-oriented businesses, social enterprises and nonprofits with one another in affordable commercial space to prevent displacement and enhance collective services.  DSS partners with commercial building owners, developers, nonprofits and government entities to create, manage and improve mission-driven shared spaces in metro Denver.

Over the past four years, we have supported 28 shared spaces in the area, representing more than 350 nonprofits, government agencies and mission-driven businesses. Looking forward to the future we are finding that community-benefiting organizations are also seeking non-traditional office spaces such as commercial kitchens, performance spaces and maker spaces that our group will help connect and create.

Since 2009, DSS has served a programmatic mission of connecting real estate and social impact under the Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), with support from the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships (DOSP). In January 2017, ULC and DOSP selected Radian, Inc., a nonprofit design center providing services to community-based initiatives to manage the DSS program. Radian, Inc. advocates for a city in which community engagement and empowerment is centered at the heart of the design and planning process.

As a community design center, Radian, Inc. provides guidance for individuals, organizations and neighborhoods to actively participate in creating healthier, sustainable and more equitable communities. We believe the built environment has a significant and direct impact on the effectiveness of those communities. Our role as both a design resource and active community member amplifies the voices of underserved neighborhoods by promoting active community participation in the architectural design process. Together, the Radian/DSS team provides a wide suite of support to the organizations that provide crucial wraparound services in our community.

Do you know an organization in need of real estate space to support their mission? Contact Megan Yonke at myonke@denversharedspaces.org. For more information about DSS programs and services, please visit www.radianresources.org and www.denversharedspaces.org.
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