Working together
R Space offers spacious, high-tech digs for lone eagles and office refugees alike

Working together

The R Space crew, from left: Laura Ehlers; owner Kirk Komick; and Tomas German-Palacios relax inside the new co-working space. Komick, and his mother, Diane Wildfang, who own the Rochester Hotel next door, opened the R Space earlier this month./Photo by Jennaye Derge.

Missy Votel - 11/23/2017

Lone eagles, those renegade entrepreneurs, tech workers and freelancers who telecommute from home, were all the rage in the aughts. But, as these independent raptors of the working world have begun to find out, being a lone eagle is, well, lonely.

Durango’s newly opened R Space hopes to change that. The 2,000-square foot co-working space next door to the Rochester Hotel on East Second Avenue is meant to bring those eagles back to the nest. It is hoped here they can foster creativity, collaboration, camaraderie and possibly even a reason to “work” in something other than their PJs.

“Studies show people are happier and more productive when they work with others,” R Space “co-operator” Tomas German-Palacios said. “People who work in co-working are 40 percent more productive than when they work alone in an office.”

According to German-Palacios, there are 3,000 non-traditional workers in La Plata County that could benefit from such a setting. “Sometimes it’s difficult or weird to have a meeting at your house,” he said. “This allows those people to give their clients a professional experience.”

The R Space is owned by the mother-son duo of Kirk Komick and Diane Wildfang, who have owned the Rochester and Leland House hotels for 25 years. They rent the building that houses the R Space, at 734 E. Second Ave., which was formerly home to Durango Music (and Canyon Music, O’Farell’s Hat Co., Appaloosa and a furrier, going way, way back.) When Durango Music moved out last spring, Komick and Wildfang began looking at business ideas that would complement the other businesses on the street.

They tossed around ideas, until finally one stuck. “There’s a WeWorks in Southern California that my mom knew about,” said Komick. He is referring to the national company that has shared-work spaces in nearly 60 cities across the country, including Denver. The two did their homework and visited a similar space in Albuquerque called Fatpipe. “We got really energized and excited about the idea,” said Komick.

(They acknowledge this is not Durango’s first co-working space. Durango Space was started in 2011 by Jasper Welch, whom they consider a “co-petitor.” They even consulted with a supportive Welch prior to opening the R Space.)

In their eyes, the role of the R Space would be twofold: filling a local niche for more meeting space while also providing a much-needed service to the hotel’s business clientele. “This allows us to take it to another level,” said Komick.

So late last spring, he and his mother leased the space and began renovating the late 1800s building to be an uber functional and modern communal work space. Foremost, the space is designed with comfort, ergonomics and flexibility in mind. The tables are tall, allowing workers to either stand or sit, and everything is on wheels, to be moved and reconfigured according to individual needs. Plush couches, chairs, carpet and textiles help absorb sound, and artwork and muted lighting help create a calm yet industrious feng shui. In other words, the exact opposite of the sterile cubicle of the Dilbert era.

“We don’t want it to be boring,” said Komick. “We want it to be really functional for different uses.”

In addition to the main work space, there is a large conference room able to accommodate 25-30 people as well as smaller conference/meeting rooms and private rooms for one-on-ones. Renovations are also being made on the upstairs, which can be used for retreats, yoga, team-building exercises or anything else businessy folks can dream up (within reason, of course.) “We’re open to letting the community dictate what things will look like,” said Komick.

Of course, the one thing we’re all wondering: what about the wi-fi? German-Palacios knew the R Space couldn’t have any old run-of-the-modem fiber optic. He worked with local internet supplier Fast Track Communications to build a bomber network capable of handling up to 200 devices, either through wi-fi or a secure ethernet connection. “You need to have indestructible equipment to handle all those devices,” German-Palacios said. “We made a huge investment in the right industrial gear.”

And now for the second-most important concern in any working environment: coffee. The R Space provides as much Desert Sun coffee as your nerves can handle, free with admission (speaking of admission, there’s more info on that at the end of the story).

“High speed internet and high-speed coffee,” quips Komick, who also professes to be a bit of a sugar junky and keeps the space well stocked with candy. (There are also “healthy” snacks and a kitchen for those with the will power to turn down the giant bowl of M&Ms.)

But the R Space isn’t just about feeding hunger pangs. It’s also about feeding the quest for knowledge, with various classes and workshops, including those through the Meet-Up app. All rooms are also available for rental to community members.

After all, togetherness is exactly what the R Space is hoping to foster. “What we really want to do is build community,” said Komick.

The way German-Palacios – an FLC graduate who studied economics, business management and psychology – sees it, sometimes this type of good, old-fashioned face to face contact is the best way to get things done in this hyper speed world of ours. “If an Apple guy talks to a Google guy, that’s not a bad thing,” he said. “The market gets better and we get better economic diversity in this community.”

And he’s not alone in this thinking. SCAPE, the local start-up accelerator program, will be using the R Space on a regular basis for companies to meet with their mentors. Even Microsoft has turned to shared space for 300 of its employees.

Of course, any time you have this many people sharing a space, there needs to be some rules. The R Space uses the “community norms” set forth by the Proximity work space network, of which it is a member.

“It’s just general good manners,” said German-Palacios.

For example, ducking into a hallway, empty room or outside to have a phone conversation. No leaving the coffee maker empty, conducting science experiments with your leftovers in the fridge, splaying your stuff everywhere, chewing with your mouth open or putting your stinky feet up on the furniture. You know, stuff your mom should’ve taught you.

Because polite co-workers make for good co-workers. And if you don’t like it, then just go back to the cubicle or home office where you can be alone. All alone.

Memberships to the R Space range from $39 for a one-day pass to $349/month for the all-inclusive 24/7 access membership. For more info., go to www.rspacedurango.com


Working together

One of the smaller conference rooms. Community members can sign up to rent any of the rooms./Photo by Missy Votel