Warehouse Workplace

Warehouse Workplace – Industry Trend or Event

Lisa Kanarek

Lance Webster finds ample space and supportive neighbors in a live/work building

What do Tom Hanks in big, Demi Moore in Ghost, and Lance Webster of LW Communications have in common? They’ve all called a warehouse home. Although Webster’s not an actor, Hollywood’s warehouse sets inspired him to move his home business into a loft.

For two years, Webster had been running his Los Angeles-based public relations and seminar development business from a large condominium. But as the business grew, the condo’s floor plan grew tight. “I was drawn to warehouses because they offer large amounts of space that I could configure however I want” he explains.

When Webster informed the 650 subscribers of his online newsletter that he was looking for a live/work arrangement in a renovated warehouse, he had a lead within 24 hours. The loft, located in a converted three-story clothing factory in the city’s artists’ district, was perfect.

The live/work movement was launched years ago by artists looking to rent or own large workspaces, according to Thomas Dolan, founder of the Live/Work Institute (www.live-work.com) in Oakland, Calif. Today, live/work environments are sought by all kinds of business owners and single professionals seeking more space as well as a community atmosphere. Webster’s neighbors–artists, photographers, writers, actors, Web site designers, and even comic book creators–often come to each other’s rescue when computers crash or fax machines go haywire. If someone needs business advice or a shoulder to lean on, another understanding colleague is only a door away.

While most live/work residences are found in large renovated warehouses in mixed-use residential and industrial neighborhoods, a number of historic structures are being remodeled into live/work environments, and “lifestyle lofts” have begun springing up in mixed-use districts throughout the country.

While having so much open space is appealing, Webster found that it also poses planning challenges. He needed to divide his living and office space, but didn’t want to put up permanent walls, as some of his neighbors had done. Instead, Webster used furniture to section off a 300-square-foot area for his home office. He used tall bookcases, a row of three file cabinets, and two desks to define his primary office space. Does he feel hemmed in? “No–since the bookshelves don’t touch the ceiling, there’s still an open feeling to the space,” he says.

The dining room is multifunctional: It serves as Webster’s conference room for meeting clients, and is where he hosts monthly networking parties for neighbors and the film community. He even occasionally converts the area into a seminar room that holds 10 people. To conduct seminars, he uses a large, freestanding mahogany wall and storage unit complete with a dry-erase board, pulldown screen, tackboard, and flip chart. A larger pulldown screen on the other side of the space is used for films.

Webster says the advantage of warehouse living–especially in high-rent cities–is evident: “Where else in Los Angeles can someone have 1,500 square feet without paying a fortune?”

SNAPSHOT: Lance Webster Profession: Founder of kW Communications, PR consultant for independent filmmakers, and publisher of media directories

Hardware: AppLe iMac and iBook, DSL line, Umax Astra 600S scanner, Apple LaserWriter II monochrome and Epson Stylus 740 color ink-jet printers, Panasonic KX-FM260 plain paper fax/copier, Xerox 5310 copier

Software: AppleWorks; Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; Day-Timer; Panorama database

Design Mission: To carve out an office in a warehouse space

COPYRIGHT 2000 CURTCO Freedom Communications

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group