This article appears in B2B Fall 2015.
It is an unassuming space, but if you have made your way to TD Ameritrade Park, Filmstreams, or Hot Shops, chances are you’ve passed one of the most vibrant offices in Omaha.
The fact that Co-Lab (short for Creative Collaborators) is not a traditional work space is certainly one of its best features. Located inside the Tip Top building at 15th and Cumming streets is a project dreamed up by Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, who happens to share the main floor of the building. Based in the heart of a once-isolated section of the city, Co-Lab’s funky, creative vibe is making waves. In fact, that vibe seeps into Omaha’s everyday, bringing about small changes pushing our city toward a more innovative future.
Home to 18 businesses plus Alley Poyner Macchietto, Co-Lab is free of walls and signage. It is also free from traditional office norms. For instance, you don’t just walk over to your neighbor’s space for a brainstorming session—you skateboard. At least you do if you’re Dave Nelson of SecretPenguin, a leading experimental branding agency. The best part is that the businesses surrounding SecretPenguin appreciate the break from tradition. “That’s the beautiful part about being around like-minded, good people and businesses,” Nelson says.
In addition to having pathways large enough to skateboard or bike through, the space also provides Co-Labbers with a kitchen, various conference rooms, bike storage, bathrooms, and a battleground (otherwise known as the ping-pong table). Walking in the main doors, clients and employees alike are greeted from the front desk while catching a view of the five-story open atrium basking in the glow of sunshine from the skylight. Workers can also access the fitness room and rooftop deck, sharing amenities with TipTop apartment residents, who use a separate entrance.
Businesses in Co-Lab, all creativity-related, range from entrepreneurs to start-ups to non-profits to small businesses. The art varies in form, but runs through the space like an electric current. At Zicafoose Textiles, Mary Zicafoose works steadily on her loom, creating gorgeous tapestries. 4Site Programming is where Joi Brown works as an independent consultant for performing arts centers across the nation. Heartland B-Cycle, a large-scale municipal bike sharing system, brings art in the form of economical convenience.
Holly Boyer, a founder of non-profit organization Mission Matters, explains that one of the best things about having an office at Co-Lab is feeling the innovative, positive energy from the moment you walk in the door. So while individuals may join Co-Lab with a business-minded focus or a more creative vibe, finding a yin to their yang is just a shout away.
“There is certainly a wonderful built-in support network that comes along with working in a collaborative environment,” quips Omaha Creative Institute Executive Director Emily Moody. “Everything from sharing ideas and finding ways to collaborate with an organization different than yours to sharing a stapler.”
At the heart of making it work, says Laura Alley of Alley Poyner, it’s simply playing well with others.
The skateboarding, ping-pong playing creatives do that well.