"The young workforce is pretty biased against the cube-farm environment," says Kyra Straussman, president of the Cool Space Locator. "We want people to know they're not doomed to be in an office park or a nondescript urban tower."
Cool Space Locator, based in an old corner grocery store in Lawrenceville, is a nonprofit that matches small businesses with unique spaces, pairing the clients' style and expectations with urban places. This month, it is set to give out its first awards for distinctive workspaces. (City Paper is one sponsor of the awards.)
Alongside expected nominees, such as architectural, communications and design firms, says the group's placement director, Kilolo Luckett, are a homeless shelter, community food bank, library and some former churches transformed into music venues and entertainment spaces. She doesn't want to reveal too many specific nominees at this stage in the game, she says.
"We were hoping for 35 nominees," Straussman says. They got 110. Entries came from all over Allegheny County, and a couple from further afield, from "not just the hot [neighborhoods] like South Side, Lawrenceville and East Liberty," Luckett says. "There were entries from Hazelwood, Carnegie, all over."
One of these is Testa Consulting Services, Inc., who found their home of the last two years, in the Strip's Crane Building, with Cool Space Locator's help.
"I think we have a pretty good shot," says company head Michael Testa. "I don't really know of any space that looks like ours." The Crane Building space has no walls or cubicles, and all the furniture is on wheels, so it can be pushed away for client entertaining. Before, Testa says, his company's space was all drop ceilings and cubicles.
Contest judge Kristoffer A. Smith, 20, is an artist and student who grew up in the city. "There's some amazing architecture and landscapes, but there's a lot going on in the opposite direction," he says. "This is a needed step."
Straussman says a space's context is part of what will lend it award-winning coolness.
"If you're in an office tower in the middle of Monroeville," he says, "it could have the best design ever but you're still trapped."