PLANTING THE SEEDS OF A SHARING ECONOMY
In 2009, we began to build The Two Twenty—which includes a co-working space, small offices for entrepreneurs and creative industries, shared meeting rooms, a boardroom, resources, printers, a kitchen, and an outstanding cafe connecting the whole ecosystem together. Having a number of friends who routinely escaped the home office to unpack our laptops in Caffe Sola, we had already experienced the synergy and inspiration inherent in shared workspace. So when it came time to expand Shift Development and buy the building on 20th Street West, we engaged our friends to design, name, and create the foundations for a collaborative community to evolve.
At the time, the term shared economy wasn’t used much in our collective lexicon. The seeds of Uber and Airbnb were just being planted. Bike and car share programs were few and far between…but growing. Without knowing it, we were tapping into an idea that would become a central feature of the current economic landscape: collaborative consumption. Sharing resources using smart technology.
THE SHIFT VERSION
We like to travel. We like to walk to where we need to go. We like making new friends. We like shedding the burdens of “stuff” and creating lifestyles with room to move, travel, and get inspired. For us this means expanding the sharing economy within our own neighbourhood and projects. While definitions of the sharing economy are varied and contested, here are the bedrocks of what makes for opportunities to share.
The closer our projects are together, the easier we can enable sharing among our tenants, buyers and staff. All of our projects are within a 7 minute walk of our office at The Two Twenty, and they include commercial buildings, co-working space, two townhouse projects, and a few infill homes. Proximity breeds community. Read our blog on walkability to hear our full explanation of why walkability is such a key focus of our projects!
Now that we’ve got a growing mass of people in close proximity, we open the door to options for sharing bikes and cars when getting around on foot just won’t cut it. We started by buying bikes for our 160 tenants at The Two Twenty to use when they need. So far Paul Miazga, editor of Flow Magazine, wins for most frequent user!
We’re huge fans of car share services but Saskatoon is a small market with only two operators. So we started an experiment, buying a little Fiat 500 for the Shift team, allowing 2 of our staff to eliminate the need for a second vehicle.
For our newest residential project on the river, Element Urban Village, we’re committed to putting a shared electric car (powered by solar energy) into the condo for the owners to utilize. The project is so close to downtown, 20th Street W and other amenities that this should fill most owners' needs for a second car. Right now, we’re looking at how to make this happen: whether it's partnering with the Saskatoon Car Share Coop or buying the car outright. We hope this also becomes a way to introduce our buyers to electric cars without needing them to buy one themselves.
Back to The Two Twenty, Saskatoon’s first and largest co-working community. With 160 people and 39 companies all shoehorned into 35,000 square ft in the heart of Riversdale, we’ve built a buzzing community of people who share resources, spaces, and ideas.
But the best part is the kind of community and collaboration that happens when people share. Whether it’s spontaneous lunch dates, movie nights, Friday beers after work, or lunch ’n learn events, the shared economy can allow us to build relationships with people that make the moments in between work more interesting and fulfilling.
We’ve opened up the co-working space to outside rentals to make sure this community is not insular, but accessible to our neighbourhood. Recently, we hosted the Indigenous Poets Society, Lululemon, birthday parties, and book clubs.
The sharing economy is not exclusive to work spaces. We recently put two of our most interesting projects up on Airbnb, expanding our sharing economy to visitors from outside Saskatoon. While they are in Saskatoon, they have access to the events, co-working space, and lifestyle that we’ve built for our community.
The Hayloft is an old grocery store in Caswell Hill that we transformed into a live/work space, featuring playful reproductions of prairie architecture: a barn, elevator and grain bin that brings Saskatchewan to life. It's been the scene of many happening house concerts over the years with outstanding international talent, and we're thrilled to offer the experience of this space to travellers.
Element Urban Village with its location overlooking the river is an ideal and luxurious spot for visitors or locals alike--especially being within walking distance of the restaurants and shops on 20t Street W, downtown, Remai Modern Art Gallery and Persephone Theatre.
SHARE THE CITY
We now live in one of the units at Element Urban Village, and even I underestimated the richness of living in the Element community—where there are smaller yard spaces, private decks, but lots of opportunity to mix and mingle with other people. And literally across the street, we share Victoria Park—a 6 acre front yard with a skate park, canoe club, tennis club, public pool, and outdoor gym. The best part? While I’m skating with the kids or exploring the riverbank, the City is mowing my lawn :)
There's a lot to digest here. We're going to follow up this blog with deeper dives into our experiences with Airbnb, co-working, and how the sharing economy is built into the designs of our living/working spaces. We haven't even gotten into the environmental benefits yet! If you're not already signed up, join our newsletter and stay tuned as the conversation unfolds.