Several members of Ann Arbor’s Workantile are quoted in a Forbes article about co-working as an option for employees who work remotely from their firm’s main offices. Workantile’s co-owner Bill Tozier: “Everybody keeps talking about the changing relationship between employee and employer. Co-working sort of offers an out, a gradual easement of that crisis. Rather than just sending people home, this remote employee relationship is a compromise that can work.” [Source]
Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” opinion column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month. At the May 20, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor city council, a resolution will appear on the agenda that would establish a task force on “economic development.” This month we asked Nelson to write about a segment of the local economy we think is likely to receive scant attention from that task force: independent workers. 
In abstract, my monthly column is about money – how money is a way that we signal our values, the way we track our interest, and the trail left by our investments of time and attention.
The Workantile is a business-like entity on Main Street in Ann Arbor . In contrast to pretty much any other “business” on Main Street, we sell neither goods nor services.
Our business is maintaining a space where a community of independent workers can sit together and work on their own things. Our space is around 3,000-square-feet, and has lots of rolling tables and chairs (so that the space can be reconfigured in any way that interests the members and serves their ends), as well as a kitchenette, a clean and commodious bathroom, a couple of phonebooth-esque things, a couple of conference rooms, some lockers and bike racks, and an awesome printer/scanner/copier.
We also have half of an ancient, homebrew quadrophonic stereo hooked up to a wifi bridge which, combined with our brick walls, high ceilings, and hardwood floors, means that we have a pretty sweet-ass dance hall sound system, too. 
Some of our members work together formally – either for the same employer with home offices in some distant and exotic place (usually California), or on projects of their own devising. But mostly we work separately, tapping away on our keyboards with headphones on.
We work on our own without having to work all alone. It’s nicer than a coffee shop, because there’s no milk-steamer roar, no awkward break-up happening at the next table, and no creepy old dudes leering at your sandaled feet. Our doors lock, so the crazies are limited to those who stay current on their membership dues (i.e., me).
You can go to the bathroom without worrying that someone is going to steal your laptop or rifle your purse. Also, when clients meet you in a coffee shop, they think, “Ugh. I guess this is how we have to do business in the 21st Century.” When clients meet you at Workantile — with our industrious brick walls, antiquey tin ceilings, and huge windows — they think “I can’t believe this gal isn’t charging me more!”
That, my friends, is an excellent thing for your clients to think.
So, to dispense with the hard sell: Come down today (or any other weekday) for a tour and a FREE Day Pass!!!
Reception for local artist/illustrator Bruce Worden at the Workantile, with an exhibit of his paintings for an animal encyclopedia. [photo] Also on display: copies of his comic book, Woodstalk: Three Days of Peace, Music, and Zombies. [photo]
Earlier this month (March 8), the Toledo Museum of Art hosted a program featuring Jay Shafer, the founder of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and one of the proponents for the tiny homes movement. “Tiny” in this case means only a few hundred square feet, and most of the Tumbleweed designs are under 200 square feet. A newly constructed, 65-square-foot Tumbleweed house, mounted on a trailer and parked on the front steps of the Museum, is among the works presented in the Museum’s “Small Worlds” exhibition.
I attended this program, in part, at the invitation of a friend who lives in Toledo – because I am an architect, and I am working on the design of a small bunkhouse for their summer cottage in Ontario.
Architecture is about creating meaningful spaces and about communicating that meaning to the occupants and users of those spaces. For me, the Small Worlds exhibition triggered a series of thoughts about elements of physical culture in Ann Arbor and whether that culture is successfully serving its purpose in the city.
I’m going to wrap a lot into this notion of physical culture – from pedestrian amenities, to accessory dwelling units, to a phone booth. The phone booth is something I’m planning to add to the physical culture of my own workspace – at Workantile on Main Street in Ann Arbor. So that’s where I’ll start, with something tinier even than Jay Shafer’s 65-square-foot house.