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May 20, 2020

Downtown Hartford co-working space Upward ready to welcome tenants

Photo | Jade Soto Upward in downtown Hartford is transitioning to a safe-distance workspace upon Connecticut's phased re-opening.

Upward will have staffers working at its downtown co-working space at the Stilts Building today, and has already changed some of the building's layout for social distancing purposes.

The 20 Church St. office tower has been open throughout the pandemic-related closures, because some companies that rent space there were deemed essential, said Samantha Wanagel, Upward's director of operations.

But even though staffers will be on-hand today, Wanagel said she doesn't expect all, or even most of the approximately 150 people who work out of the building regularly to return right away.

"I anticipate, based on the conversations that I've had with all of our members, that there will be a slow trickle into the office space," Wanagel said.

[Read more: Downtown Hartford businesses take cautious approach to May 20 reopening]

In addition to spacing workstations six feet from apart, Upward established on-direction foot traffic in public areas, dedicated workstations (as opposed to using any available desk) and is distributing a "hygiene key," a small plastic tool tenants can use to avoid touching things (like the buttons on the coffee machine, for example), Wanagel said.

Upward's tenants are mostly small startups, and it's been a mixed bag in terms of how the pandemic has affected each company and their ability to pay rent, said Shana Schlossberg, Upward's CEO. The company is working out payment plans with companies unable to make full rent payments on-time, she said.

Shana Schlossberg, Founder and CEO, Upward

"[The pandemic] hit everywhere it could hit, and everyone… so we work with them, it's a case-by-case," Schlossberg said. "[But] we're also in our own reality of we need to pay our rent, too."

Tenants whose companies haven't been severely affected by the pandemic have continued making rent payments without requesting relief, Schlossberg said.

While short-term obstacles abound, Schlossberg said she thinks co-working space may take on an added premium in an environment in which businesses may be less willing to sign long-term leases.

"No one perceives office space to disappear, and actually the co-working flexible spaces, it is believed, will become even more important," Schlossberg said. "Do [companies] want to sign a five-year lease, or do they want to take a space for six months, and then see what happens?"

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