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CoBiz workspace celebrates grand opening with celebrity, locals

on November 8, 2019

CoBiz, a new 9,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art co-working space and business incubator opened its doors November 6 at 1503 Macdonald Ave., in the latest effort to boost the prospects of entrepreneurs and revitalize Richmond’s downtown.

Strategically located next to the Richmond BART and Amtrak station, a hub for 8,000 daily commuters, CoBiz is the third project to be funded under Chevron Corp.’s eQuip Richmond Initiative, a $10 million investment program offered by the energy company as a pathway to economic self-sufficiency through sustainable jobs and careers.

On Wednesday evening, residents, business owners and city officials turned out to cheer the grand opening, led by Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and celebrity guest MC Hammer, a rapper, entrepreneur and minister.

Guests viewing new workspace from the balcony.

Mayor Butt voiced optimism about the project, describing it to Richmond Confidential as ‘’the tipping point for downtown Richmond.’’ He reflected that Richmond lost the vibrancy it once had, 75 years ago, after the shipyards left. Once one of the most exciting places in the United States, he said the city went downhill thereafter and didn’t really start turning around until the 1980’s. Traditional downtown Richmond, however, continued to lag behind. 

“This (CoBiz) is the anchor of the new downtown Richmond,” he said. “It’s finally coming back.”

In his speech, MC Hammer agreed with the Mayor’s sentiment saying “Richmond is the perfect place” for CoBiz. He also advised CoBiz to keep pushing and believing in the young people who may not necessarily get it right the first or second time. “The people who know how to best use new platforms, they’re right here in Richmond. Don’t shortchange yourself.”

MC Hammer giving a speech on the CoBiz grand opening.

Hector Infante, a manager at Chevron, said the space had been created for all residents including small business owners, nonprofit organizations, or groups of students working on what could be the next million-dollar company. “Just imagine what could be the next big thing that can come up from the co-working space in Richmond,” he said, citing Spotify and Uber as model companies. “Believe me, these things can happen.”

The workspace was designed by Kelly Finley, a female interior designer based in Oakland. The building’s amenities include conference rooms with designs inspired by Richmond’s rich history, 24/7 keyless access, free coffee and tea, free printing and even a podcast room.   Tenants can relax and recharge in a tastefully designed “Pumzika” area. “Pumzika” is a Swahili word for “rest.” Tenants can choose between leasing private offices, dedicated desks or hot “open seating” desks. Hot desks, which are predicted to be popular, include any unassigned seats in the facilitys large open area, including sofas, benches and lounge chairs.

CoBiz food hall.

Wesley Alexander, the CoBiz CEO, depicted CoBiz as a hub for diversity and a gateway to success, where people can thrive both entrepreneurially and in their personal lives. “If you’re a person with purpose, regardless of your socioeconomic background, if you come to me and my team, we can customize something and make it work,” he said, adding that “great things come from places you least expect.”

Businesspeople present at the event were confident that CoBiz would help open up Richmond to the rest of the world. Cherry Tyler, a spiritual practitioner and salon owner, who has worked on Macdonald Ave. for 10 years, shared that potential clients and business partners outside are scared of Richmond which makes it hard for her to grow her business.

“Bringing people who hear about Richmond from the outskirts has been difficult for me,” Tyler said. Having CoBiz on Macdonald Ave. meant a lot to her, likening it to having resources and a team of people committed to the same thing behind her, she added. “They believe. They are here for the community. They are here for you and me.”

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