Go to the office - in a social housing apartment building. Such is the original idea just launched by Val-d’Oise Habitat. The department’s social landlord inaugurated a coworking space in the middle of Saint-Leu-la-Forêt, France. “At the beginning, it was considered a bit of a silly idea,” smiles Raphaelle Gilabert, Director of Val-d’Oise Habitat.
“But the city was willing to participate. We are targeting entrepreneurs, or people who have a company but are only two people: a boss and a secretary, for example. Coworking is ideal when one has a desire to create one’s own enterprise, but who doesn’t want to immediately invest in expensive office space.”
In a former computer accessories boutique, 50 square meters of space have been completely redone. The rooms are still empty, but will soon be equipped with desks, telephones, and printers. Val-d’Oise Habitat is supplying all shared amenities. New entrepreneurs will only have to show up with their laptops and take a seat. There can be up to 12 people sharing the space, and will share the rent of approximately 800 Euros a month.
The Mayor and Departmental Counsellor, Sébastien Meurant, assures us that he has already been in contact with interested parties. “There are more and more entrepreneurs these days,” notes the Mayor. “This coworking space is an alternative to the business incubator in the city center. When someone starts out, they are often alone. This coworking structure is a fertile ground for growing small businesses. In France, too often, the little businesses never become large. They get absorbed by bigger companies or move abroad.”
To allow talented people to launch their businesses, Val-d’Oise Habitat invested 350,000 Euros in the project. They completed the total renovation of the apartment building in 2008. This 19th century building was in very bad condition, and lots of work had to be done in order to build the current 12 apartments. If the experiment proves successful, Val-d’Oise Habitat envisions creating other coworking spaces. It is the first time in France that a social landlord has put such a structure in place.
In addition to office-sharing, Val-d’Oise Habitat is working on carsharing. The social landlord hopes to offer rentable electric cars at the intergenerational residence being constructed near the Montigny-lès-Cormeilles train station.
Between now and next year, two Renault Zoé cars will be made available to renters who can rent it for several hours or more, using the internet. “We couldn’t create more than 50 parking spaces at this location,” explains Raphaelle Gilaber. “Therefore, we are compensating for this with carsharing, which we have seen developed in other places. The children of older building residents can then come visit by train, and reserve a car to take mom out!”
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Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Image 3 by Daniel Villafruela. Images 1, 2, and data linked to sources.