City Readies “iHaven” Coworking Space


New Haven is already flush with coworking spaces. But the city’s small business team sees room to open still one more, aimed at local college (non-Yale) student entrepreneurs.

City small business economic development officials revealed that plan on Tuesday morning during the Development Commission’s regular monthly meeting on the second floor of City Hall.

Small Business Resource Center Director Cathy Graves and Small Business Counselor Gerry Garcia introduced the commissioners to the idea of iHaven, a new proposed coworking space designed to keep college student entrepreneurs from fleeing New Haven for Boston and New York after graduation.

Thomas Breen photo“The idea is to make it too expensive to leave New Haven,” Garcia said. If the city can help provide enough small business development support for one of New Haven’s greatest resources, ambitious young college students, then maybe those students will find staying in New Haven is the best investment they can make in getting their businesses off the ground.

The city is no stranger to coworking spaces, nonconventional office spaces where the self-employed and small-businesspeople rent desks and hope to forge connections with fellow community-seeking entrepreneurs. To name a few, there’s Agora, formerly the Grove, on Chapel Street; the DISTRICT in Fair Haven; the Urban Collective in East Rock; and the Range at Lotta Studio in Westville.

What will distinguish iHaven from the other extant spaces, Graves and Garcia said, is that it will line up legal services, venture capital, accounting firms, and other small business support specifically for local college students.

They said that Albertus Magnus Collage, Gateway Community College, Quinnipiac University, Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), and the University of New Haven (UNH) have already committed to partnering with the city’s small business team on making iHaven a reality.

They plan to open the new coworking space in the late spring or early summer on the third floor of 59 Elm St., in a 9,808-square-foot space that currently houses the automated compliance management company, Continuity . Garcia said Continuity spent $250,000 on the space, which was designed by local architect Fernando Pastor, but they no longer need it now that they’ve decentralized their office and almost all of their 25 employees work remotely.

“We started on this journey to figure out how we could localize and create a magnet for these young people,” Garcia said, “create community around them, focus resources to them, and, frankly, increase the cost of them leaving, make it more difficult for them to leave, have them feel like they’re leaving behind something more than where they happened to spend the past four to eight years,:

Graves and Garcia said they’ve already received a $150,000 CTnext grant from the Elm City Innovation Collaborative (ECIC) to help realize iHaven, and that they will likely receive a $200,000 grant for the project from the state Department of Economic and Community Development (ECDC).

Similar to the local entrepreneurship incubator Collab, Garcia said, iHaven will host pitch competitions for students to showcase their business ideas to their peers.

They said they plan to lease the office space from Continuity, and that they are looking for an anchor tenant with whom to share the space. Participating schools, they said, will identify and recommend student entrepreneurs they think would benefit from working out of the new coworking space.

Development Commission Vice-Chair Anthony Sagnella said he works in 59 Elm St., and had spoken with Continuity’s head about how that company had designed a new space for 25 employees, and now all of the company’s employees work remotely. He said he’s glad to see that the space will be put to good use with iHaven.

“I think it’s great,” he said.

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