The Coworker: Temps Libre, Montreal’s only free full-service coworking space

Temps LibreThe Coworker is a new weekly series by MTLinTECH that spotlights one Montreal coworking space every Tuesday.

Vincent Chapdelaine and Ariane Careau met us at the Temps Libre coworking space on a brisk fall day in Montreal, a new space in Montreal that claims to offer the only completely-free coworking in the city.

The Mile End space at 5605 Avenue de Gaspé offers free coffee, strong wifi and a well-designed space with tables, chairs and other places to sit for about 40 people. This Friday the space officially launches to the public.

“It doesn’t exist anywhere else in Montreal, so I hope people realize how radical this idea is,” said Chapdelaine. “We don’t want to make rules on how people use the space. People can host events here for free. We want the community to organize itself and take control of the space.”

Several people who came by over the past few months couldn’t accept that the space was completely free.

“They don’t know how to act. People aren’t used to this concept,” said Careau. “The lack of rules or payment almost makes people uncomfortable, but once we explain the concept tend tend to like it.”

To provide that free space Temps Libre sells desk space in its adjacent paid coworking area that’s about three times the size of the public space and seats about 80 people. About 75 per cent of these seats are already spoken for by monthly renters who pay $275 for one seat (and a cheaper price per desk if one rents more than one desk).

It all comes from the vision of the non-profit call Espaces Temps, of which Chapdelaine is the director. Temps Libre is structured as a cooperative and Chapdelaine plays the role of cofounder of the space as well. Careau is the space’s operations manager.

The pair call Temps Libre part of their “vision of democracy” where more free spaces exist for people to use. Especially in a city like Montreal where a fierce winter effectively prohibits many outside spaces from being used, Chapdelaine says more spaces need to exist.

“A healthy city is one where people can gather and work on projects freely. We think the city needs places where people can discuss, organize and host events with as little constraints as possible,” Chapdelaine told MTLinTECH.

Temps Libre

Temps Libre

Temps LibreTemps Libre does benefit from four financial partners including Concordia University, which also rents eight desks in the paid space. Other than that, dozens of web workers can be seen working away in the impressive paid space at Temps Libre. Private calling booths, slick conference rooms, a spacious kitchen and even a kids daycare room round out the space.

There is no doubt upon walking into this larger space that the people in charge of Temps Libre knew what they were building. It’s an impressive, effective space to work.

Chapdelaine and his partners decided to create Temps Libre in September. By Christmastime they had negotiated $300,000 in sponsorship funding and construction began at the site. They hired restaurant and bar designers to liven the place up and by March 1 the first desk-renters moved in.

The 32-year-old physics graduate from the Université de Montréal fell into entrepreneurship “by accident.” He kept creating new projects with his friends, some of them tech-based, and ended up working on them even while he was completing his masters. Temps Libre, on the other hand, is more real estate-based.

“I’m all over the place but I’ve always created social projects that are rooted in building social communities,” said Chapdelaine.

Now he’s even looking to open a new coworking space just like Temps Libre somewhere else in Montreal next year.

Temps Libre
Temps Libre
Temps Libre
Chapdelaine emphasized that his team at Espace Temps are social entrepreneurs. They aren’t out to make profit, he said, but to create a sustainable, viable enterprise. “To create something viable you need to have revenue of course. If you want to offer a free space you need to have something that’s not free, and that’s where our paid coworking comes in.”
And they’ve executed nicely on that end of their bargain. As for the free space, it’s all part of their socially-minded plans.
“I like to say that coworking is not about desks, it’s about communities. Every coworking space is the epicentre of a specific community. We want to be the social business and future cities community. And that’s pretty exciting.

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