The Coworker is a new weekly series by MTLinTECH that spotlights one Montreal coworking space every Tuesday.
Johan Perrette met us in front of 400 Ave Atlantic to escort us up to office #601, a quiet and quirky coworking space that’s now heading into its sixth year in business.
6cent1, as it’s spelled, could be the oldest spot in the entire city when it comes to Montreal’s diverse array of coworking spaces. And this one is certainly different from the rest.
The building its in 400 Atlantic, an 11-floor relic that was originally completed in 1920. One could argue it’s one of Montreal’s hidden gems. It’s sits on a small, odd street that sits parallel to Parc Ave, north of Ave Van Horne.
Upon walking into the space, one is struck by its peacefulness and the sheer unique beauty the space’s natural interior. 6cent1 is nestled in one of those places that only Montreal can offer in its appearance. It’s that old Montreal architecture that so many clamour for when searching for places to be.
“There’s a charm to it,” said cofounder Frédric Clairoux, who doubles as CEO of FX StudioDesign. He opened 6cent1 in 2010 with Mélanie Hébert, CEO of Jack Marketing. “You can feel that the industrial vibe and the creativity come together. It’s an active space with a lot of vibrance.”
There are no private offices, but rather dedicated desks. When four dedicated desks are rented out to the same team, it nearly acts as a private space though. Bookshelves and plants surround the desks to give a team a hint if privacy, while huge old windows nearly cover the entire north end of the space, providing lots of sunshine.
While the quiet conversations of others can still be heard, it’s strangely peaceful despite the lack of walls separating anyone. Several conference rooms can be rented at any time for private meetings and calls, however.
A single desk costs $375 per month. A member can rent a second desk for $325, a third and fourth for $150 each. Thus, a team renting a four-desk square would cost $1,000. Non-members can work at 6cent1 for the day for $25, while ten days can be purchased for $225 (valid for three months). Or, a three-days-per-week dedicated desk goes for $200. Similarly, non-members can rent a conference room for $20 per hour, $75 per day or 10 hours for $180. The parking is free as well.
Sophie Moreau, a member who founded Evola Marketing Innovation, chose 6cent1 for its ambience. It wasn’t noisy like some of the other, larger spaces she visited, where big open-concept desks sit dozens of people.
“It’s easy to have a little bit of privacy and at the same time mix with people. It’s not cubicles but it’s not open tables where you need to wear your head phones constantly. Here we have space to spread around and grow.”
Moreau added that the space’s interior was unique enough to catch her attention.
“The light is great. I love having high ceilings and being in an old brick building instead of a modern corporate environment.”
Clairoux said when the pair opened 6cent1 in 2010 it was one of just three coworking spaces in the city. By MTLinTECH’s estimation, there now exists over 20 different coworking spaces in Montreal.
Since 6cent1 opened its doors several competitors have commanded market share, like Sherbrooke Street’s Notman House, 5333 Casgrain’s La Gare and the Montreal location of WeWork, the global mega-chain of coworking spaces now valued at $16 billion.
However, most of the city’s spaces are smaller areas housing roughly 10 to 20 startups, something their owners cite as reasons why its communities are more organic and “founder-friendly.”
Clairoux places a heavy emphasis on the group cohesiveness of its members, explaining that 6cent1 takes its time accepting new members to the space. About 10 permanent teams and 35 members work at 6cent1 every day.
“Right now we’re pretty stable,” said Clairoux. “We have a good crowd and want to keep it like that. We accept new people from time to time but we won’t move or get bigger because we want to observe the Montreal market.”
The conversation soon moved to one larger space within Montreal rumoured to be opening a second location in the Plateau neighbourhood. Competition from brand name entrants should reasonably have an effect on smaller spaces like 6cent1, but that’s not deterring Clairoux.
“I’m not sure [the larger players] are going to fit in Montreal in the long term,” said Clairoux. “I’ll be curious to observe the trend. I feel that entrepreneurs here prefer the smaller ecosystems where we can work together. Maybe bigger spaces can provide that but it will need a lot of creativity.”
But Clairoux also argued that the basic concept of coworking could end up as the future of working, period.
“Look at the renovation of the Queen Elizabeth on Rene Levesque. They have a huge plan to integrate coworking spaces. The lobby will be a part-coworking space,” he said.
Indeed, the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel has been under renovations since it was first announced last year. The lower floors “will be refocused to become a modern ‘business campus,’ with updated meeting areas and public spaces.”
Could hotels and corporate offices of the future be the ones offering the most sought-after coworking real estate? It’s not such a farfetched idea, according to Clairoux.
“They don’t have fixed offices in some corporate firms, rather they do coworking spaces inside their own business. It’s all changing.”
As for his own lovely little space, Clairoux held firm that 6cent1 will stay patient before it makes any moves.
“We have a good size, good people and a good rental rate.”
Have you read the rest of The Coworker series?