Cool Coworking Space Spotlight

Crafting community at Hangar Dreys Coworking in Raleigh

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It all began with a profound insight from Andrew DiMeo, PhD, a career innovator in biomedical engineering and a proactive health enthusiast, who was deeply influenced by the Harvard study on happiness and subsequent book, The Good Life.

This book, which underscores the vital importance of meaningful relationships for health, opened DiMeo's eyes to the loneliness epidemic exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift towards remote working. This realization was pivotal. "You're twice as likely to die sooner from loneliness than you are from obesity," DiMeo reflected on the study's findings.

DiMeo's own experiences of isolation while working from home fueled his resolve to innovate within the coworking space industry, which seemed to be faltering in addressing the needs of individual remote workers. His idea was clear — create a coworking environment in Raleigh, North Carolina, that fosters significant relationships and caters not just to companies but to individual remote professionals and digital nomads.

Velvet Nelson steps up as the operational backbone

Meanwhile, Velvet Nelson, an experienced operator of coworking spaces in the Raleigh area, was ready to embark on a new journey. She wanted more control over her work environment, to shape a community that went beyond mere office space provisioning. Her vision aligned very well with DiMeo’s when they were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, leading to the creation of Hangar Dreys. 

Nelson's operational expertise complemented DiMeo's visionary approach seamlessly, setting the foundation for a coworking space that was all about growing people, not just companies.

"I've been operating coworking spaces for several years now, I think it's time that I want to do it on my own and control the narrative a bit more," Nelson shared with DiMeo during their initial meetings. This desire to shift the focus from growth metrics to community engagement was a driving force in their collaboration.

What’s in a name?

The name "Hangar Dreys" emerged from a burst of creativity and a deep understanding of the community it aimed to serve. DiMeo, reflecting on his habit of brainstorming innovative ideas, shared an anecdote about the conception of the coworking space's name, which highlighted both his and his wife's creative inputs.

While sitting in a local bike shop and discussing various concepts, DiMeo's wife suggested "hangar," drawing an analogy between the storage of bicycles and aircrafts. "It's like a hangar for bicycles. They're gonna be hanging on the walls," she explained, envisioning a space where not only bicycles but also ideas and people could come together and 'hang out.'

Simultaneously, DiMeo was texting a friend about a potential logo that could encapsulate the essence of their project. During this exchange, he pondered the natural habitat of squirrels—a common sight in Raleigh, which is known as the city of oaks. This led him to discover that a squirrel's nest is called a drey,' which resonated with him as unique and fitting. 

"Hangar Dreys," he decided, would be a name that combined both the physical and communal aspects of their vision, albeit with a playful twist that acknowledged the local wildlife and the active lifestyle they promoted.

A space designed for connection

Hangar Dreys is conceptualized to be more than just a workspace. It is envisioned as a community hub where individuals can find both a place to work and a space to engage in healthy, social activities. DiMeo and Nelson want to eliminate the traditional office setups and create an open, flexible environment where interactions are encouraged and facilitated.

From the furniture to the layout, every aspect of Hangar Dreys will be designed to enhance interaction and foster a sense of belonging. "Every desk should have a monitor or two extra just sitting on it," DiMeo explained, emphasizing the need for a setup that accommodates the practical needs of modern remote workers.

Programming for the complete person

Hangar Dreys' commitment to addressing loneliness and enhancing wellness will be evident in its programming. The space will offer activities that promote physical health and social interaction, such as yoga classes, meditation sessions, and opportunities for members to engage in casual, meaningful conversations around a shared interest — like cycling or running.

"We're very excited about finding someone who can open the door to hospitality," Nelson said, highlighting their plan to have a community manager who could double as a wellness instructor. This dual role will be crucial in ensuring that members not only have a productive work environment but also have opportunities to care for their mental and physical well-being.

Challenges and aspirations

Despite their innovative approach, DiMeo and Nelson face challenges, particularly with the traditional perceptions of coworking spaces. The failure of big, headline names in the industry has led to skepticism about the viability of new coworking ventures. However, DiMeo is undeterred, hoping to "throw a brick into the mirror of what you believe coworking is and realize that this is completely different.”

Welcome to the future of Hangar Dreys

Looking forward, Hangar Dreys hopes to be more than a coworking space. It aspires to be a community pillar in Raleigh, welcoming all who seek a healthy and engaged lifestyle. DiMeo and Nelson envision a place where work and well-being are intertwined, where members can work, exercise, and socialize in a seamless flow throughout their day.

Hangar Dreys represents a bold step forward in redefining coworking spaces. Through the visionary leadership of Andrew DiMeo and the operational acumen of Velvet Nelson, it seeks to address fundamental human needs for connection and community, promising a holistic approach to coworking that nurtures both the professional and personal lives of its members.

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