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Sunday, March 7, 2021

A space for collaboration

Robert Francis rfrancis@bizpress.net

When Blake A. Panzino moved to Fort Worth a few years ago, he couldn’t find the kind of office and work environment he was looking for, so he decided to build it for himself – and others. The result is coLAB Workspace, an office building that encourages collaboration and communication among the tenants. “It’s really simple,” said Panzino. “I was looking for office space to run our real estate investment company out of. I just needed a couple of hours a day to respond to emails and I got really bored just looking at four walls. I had met a lot of great entrepreneurs in Fort Worth and I wanted to be surrounded by that kind of inspiration.”

Panzino and Meggan, his wife and partner in his real estate investment firm, M&B Interests LLC, were expecting their first child at the time, so Blake headed out to find a location in Fort Worth. Looking around the city, he spied the former Josko’s Autobody Shop at 262 Carroll St., just a few blocks from the hustling, bustling West Seventh Street area. Taking that space, as well as two vacant homes nearby, he used the former auto body shop as the basis for the nearly 9,000-square-foot coLAB. CoLAB’s space is broken up into private suites of between 103 square feet to 176 square feet, meeting spaces and a co-working space. The co-working space offers desk rental options designed for entrepreneurs and businesses needing a physical presence for their business but aren’t yet in need of a private office. There is a reception desk, but it too will be staffed by an entrepreneur, who is offering office services by the hour.

“A growing business or startup doesn’t need these kinds of services eight hours a day like a large business, so offering these services by the hour makes sense,” said Panzino. GCI Construction Services of Arlington was the general contractor on the project. “We designed it to encourage collaboration, to attract those types of people that want to build businesses and to be surrounded by other people with those same goals” said Panzino. “Our tagline is ‘Work for yourself, but not alone.’” After just a few months, Panzino is finding himself where he wanted to be: surrounded by other entrepreneurs. CoLAB is currently 60 percent leased.

Brad Hancock, director of the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center at Texas Christian University, isn’t surprised. “Co-working space is becoming very popular around the country and offers a number of benefits and helps facilitate and spur entrepreneurial activity,” he said.

Jeff Gerred of SoEg Creative moved in to coLAB after running his branding agency out of his home. “I needed to find my own space and began looking for a place like this,” he said. “I absolutely like it over here. The cooperation with other people in the building is great and it’s raising my visibility.”

He even uses the building’s common areas to market one of his own clients, Red House Coffee of Burleson. “We have their coffee here in the break area, so they get some visibility too,” Gerred said. For Panzino, coLAB is just what he was looking for when he arrived in Fort Worth. “When I came here I loved the dynamic of Fort Worth and the entrepreneurs here, but it seemed spread out,” he said. “I hope we can concentrate some of that here. CoLAB is as much about the community and ecosystems we have in place as it is about the physical building.”  

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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