Shared Spaces

A former auto body shop is now a favored Fort Worth coworking space for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Working from home has its perks, but it doesn’t have the same vibe of a big community. coLAB combines the perks of personal space with the energy of a community to create the ideal work environment.
coLAB coworking space sits at 262 Carroll St. – near an area busy with car dealerships and auto body shops – so it isn’t too surprising that the 9,000-square-foot building was once an auto body shop itself.

Blake Panzino, an entrepreneur, founded coLAB in August 2013. He and his wife Meggan arrived from Chicago ready to raise a new family. He was in need of a workspace outside of his home.

“I wanted a cool office space, but I also wanted people to be around,” he said.

Panzino found himself bored with every office space he saw, when he came across the old auto body shop. An avid fan of older buildings with unreplicable design, he wanted to save the aged industrial vibe of the building.
So the Panzinos got to work designing the coLAB space themselves. Blake credits Meggan with helping him add feminine touches to balance the gritty, masculine vibe.

The result is a chic-meets-industrial aesthetic found throughout the building. Brick walls make up the majority of the building’s exterior, and the inside is a mixture of concrete flooring, wood finishes, and bright pops of energy from decadent chandeliers and colorful detailing. 

“I didn’t want to tear something down, and I found an auto body shop that was slated to be torn down,” he said. “We kept the garage doors to keep it functional, while at the same time, a nod to the past.”

The garage doors now function as large windows inside the common area, which includes communal workspace and a kitchen. Additionally, there are countertop seats placed on the garage doors for anyone who prefers a view outside the office while working.

“That building had a very rare, rough past as far as design,” Panzino said. “We wanted to retain that kind of grittiness, that warehouse feel, but at the same time make it suitable to be class A office space.”

A short walk down a ramp just off the left of the main entryway leads tenants into the spacious yet cozy communal area. The kitchen stays stocked with free coffee from local roasters. The common area adds a dose of modern to the industrial space with dainty white and grey wallpaper and a sputnik chandelier. A dark navy rug anchors the room with a rustic wood coffee table paired with camel brown leather couches. A large colorful world map is hung in the center of the main wall, which consists entirely of wood paneling. A black chalkboard sits above a row of deep chocolate-brown leather booths and dark wood tables on the opposite wall. Exposed pipes and cement floors add to the industrial vibe.

An adjacent conference room, up for grabs to any tenant, buzzes with energy – a result of the bright orange dry-erase board, white walls, and another elegant chandelier. White swivel desk chairs, a TV for presentations, and a long wooden conference table complete the room.

The common space and bathrooms are strategically placed in the center of the building to promote “spontaneous bump-ins” and create “forced serendipity” between tenants, Panzino said.

A funky lobby greets guests. A moose head sits dead center on the wall behind the desk, juxtaposed against the same dainty wallpaper found in the common area. Above the desk are the brightly lit bold letters, W-O-R-K, and across from the desk is another orange dry-erase board covered in various events and notes.

Against the wall across from the main doors are three bright-red phone booths that practically beg for someone to step inside and phone a friend. Adjacent to the phone booths is the largest private suite, which is 1,000 square feet.

At coLAB each company furnishes and designs its own space. The tenants’ design elements vary from classic wooden office spaces to hipster chic. One office, with a bike inside, hints at the tenant’s preferred method of transport. 

“We want people to be proud that they work at coLAB but not feel like they work for coLAB,” said Panzino. “We want each of their spaces to feel like their own unique space.”

Two main hallways are lined with office suites, and white walls have bold and motivational sayings written in black script. One script reads, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.”

But the building’s design is not the only motivating element at coLAB – the people help too.

“People are inviting and engaging,” Panzino said, adding that there’s good energy at coLAB, as tenants are overall friendly and like to help each other.

“It depends what day it is, but there is typically a good buzz of creation going on,” he said.

Businesses have already grown out of coLAB, and the common area space provides a great area for people to meet and realize their skills combine well, which can lead to a new business venture itself, Panzino said.
“It’s geared toward people who just miss those interactions of being in an office space but who also want something that reflects their personality,” he said.

Another coLAB location, with new design elements and a new crop of tenants, is set to open in Dallas in a few months.