Cool Coworking Space Spotlight

A coworking and creative playground at Guild Row

What happens when an architect, an urban planner, and a theater director put their heads together?

You get a beautifully designed kitchen space meets woodshop meets concert venue.

No, wait.

You get a historically respectful building that serves as an incubator for non-profit players.

Um, hold on. Try again.

You get a welcoming atmosphere that fosters a community of makers, artists, workers, and all around decent humans.

Actually, you get all that and more at Guild Row in Chicago.

Mike Healy, Jim Lasko, and Elyse Agnello are the minds behind this unique community that attracts artists, makers, activists, thinkers, doers, and other like-minded folks. 

“We saw there was an endless chasm of energy that gets thrown into being miserable on the internet,” explained Healy. “At the same time, a whole lot of energy goes into creating physical spaces for very wealthy people to be together. But there wasn't anything for people who are ‘other-focused.’ We wanted to kind of createthat that platform for the ‘give-a-damn crowd,’ as we say.”

The team began using Coworks to manage 12,000 sq ft of space, communicate with over 450 members, and promote their eclectic and dynamic schedule of events. Club Director Al Kelly shared more about the vision, the management, and the curation of the Guild Row makerspace community.

Curating and crafting multi-sensory, multi-channel events

So picture this: a night of celebrating Thai culture through food, music, dance, and wine. Or maybe it’s a bocce ball tournament followed by a whiskey tasting night. These are the kinds of events Guild Row hosts.

“Our events are rooted in our core values: good community, good food, and a good time,” explained Kelly. “And then also we bring an element of culture and thoughtfulness. Folks are able to eat and get to know each other. So to come up with ideas, we just sit down and say, what would be fun? What will encourage discussion? What's something that will lower people's barriers a little bit and get them talking to one another? And one of the easiest ways to do that is over food.”

Guild Row also promotes its space to the public for events such as fundraisers, weddings, meetings and more. Members can also host events in the space at a discounted rate. But connecting to the local businesses and organizations nearby is a critical part of the overall mission.

“We have really good relationships with local organizations. When they can't accommodate a larger event, they'll send it our way, and we do the same for them. We've even helped create a community open house, where people would have a punch card for all the local businesses they’ve visited,” Kelly shared.

A space to bring pandemic hobbies into the world

Many folks who were either in lockdown or simply stayed home for safety during the height of the pandemic used the time to pick up new hobbies and explore new skills. The Guild Row team wants to nurture those and help people foster their new passions.

“Join the Stitch and Sip group, fix that chair you meant to repair, or make sourdough loaves for your family,” said Kelly. “Whatever you do, you feel inspired when you’re here. In the world where work is always at the forefront and it's prioritized over everything else, it can feel really difficult to reprogram yourself to be playful."

While the first year of Guild Row was about building the community and infrastructure to deliver the experiences, the next year is about momentum and growth.

“We’re excited to lean into what we do best,” said Kelly. “And our members are our inspiration.”

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