Sydney Berry Ling talks about the new Red Chair Workspaces coworking space she is opening with her husband Kevin Ling on W. Jackson Ave. in downtown Knoxville Wednesday, Jan 9, 2019.
Knoxville News Sentinel
There’s now an option for coworking in downtown Knoxville.
Kevin and Sydney Ling moved to Knoxville in January 2018 after living in Austin, Texas and Sydney, Australia. The couple dreamed for several years of running a coworking space to bring entrepreneurs and remote workers out of isolation.
Sydney wandered into the Old City’s Red Chair Architects office in September 2018 and struck up a conversation with Cockrill about the space.
Cockrill had some room to spare in the 5,300-square-foot office and had already done some coworking, leasing space to startups and friends through the years.
“The concept I think is awesome,” Cockrill said. “Other big cities are doing it. The need is there. I hear people all the time talk about ‘gosh I work out of my house.’ It’s just hard to be productive when you’re sitting in your pajamas at your computer.”
The coworking space, now open, maintains the “Red Chair” brand. Cockrill’s firm still operates out of the suite.
“David’s been amazing at just creating this opportunity for us to come in and really lead it, but it’s his brand,” Sydney said.
Inside the Fire Street Lofts space
The office, located on the ramp level of the Fire Street Lofts building, includes hardwood floors, 17-foot ceilings, wooden beams and tons of natural light. It was built in 1886.
Cockrill purchased the suite in 2006 (it had been a nightclub previously) and built the conference room and mezzanine level. He’s been an architect for nearly 40 years.
“This environment really lends itself to being comfortable,” Sydney said. “Our heart is really to make it cozy and make it warm.”
Coworkers can sign one of two month-to-month membership agreements. The $500-per-month membership guarantees a dedicated desk and chair on the first floor. These members receive around-the-clock access to the building and secure storage.
The $275-a-month membership offers open seating on the mezzanine level during regular business hours. All members receive WiFi access, conference room reservations and unlimited coffee and tea.
The Lings hosted several open houses in late 2018 and have garnered interest from numerous industries. They have not yet signed their first member.
The space has been on the market, and Cockrill said he would still be open to offers. He’s also created a concept that splits the space into two residences. His asking price, according to broker Providence Commercial Real Estate, is $1.195 million.
Coworking ‘can be lonely’
Sydney experienced working in a coworking space and said it was an opportunity for collaboration, support and combined resources.
“It can be lonely,” Kevin said. “So a big part of it for us is being able to bring a sense of community among those people, where they can feel connected and have some interaction.”
Kevin will serve as community manager for the space. Sydney works full time at Two Roads. Though she started the project, she’s passing the management on to Kevin.
“She starts things. I maintain things,” he said.
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