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Welcome to Cahoots, The New Front Door of Ann Arbor Tech

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When Alison Todak, the managing director of the new Cahoots coworking space for tech workers in downtown Ann Arbor, offered us a tour through the new office while they finish renovations, we thought we would compare and contrast with other coworking spaces around town.

There is no comparison. All coworking spaces in Ann Arbor are excellent, but this one is… epic? You can see the full scale in this virtual tour. Cahoots is a new passion project started by several local entrepreneurs and anchored by their companies plus 27 other startups, including Trove, Clinc, Nutshell, and many others. The Cahoots facility spans two floors of three adjacent historic buildings on East Huron opposite the Hands on Musuem, in a spot the city was happy to spruce up after a couple decades of decline on a block surrounded by successful real estate.

Alison Todak, managing director of Cahoots coworking space and presider over a massive construction project to renovate and combine three historic Ann Arbor buildings, including the Ann Arbor Tribune building.

So what’s included? Lots of open-concept coworking space, at $450/month per desk flat rate. Clinc currently occupies the entire upper floor of the main building with 80 desks, but there is still a lot of space available. Cahoots companies have been renting next door at City Center until construction is complete, and several office spaces, conference rooms, and kitchenettes are already available in the completed section of the new space.

“There aren’t many roofs in Ann Arbor.”

Alison Todak, Managing Director Cahoots Coworking Space

“There aren’t many roofs in Ann Arbor,” Todak says as she takes me outside to see a large multi-level deck in progress. In the construction zone next door to the completed office space, workers busily add skylights, a large lobby with fireplace and coffee shop up front, the triple roof deck, as well as a basement rec room and aerobics studio complete with showers and sauna for members. There is a 2,000 square-foot event space behind the lobby and coffee shop for tech events. A member’s-only private entrance along the side of the lobby allows workers to accept deliveries and come and go from work without negotiating the public spaces.

“We’re looking to be the front door for Ann Arbor tech,” Todak tells me. “The founders looked at what other tech towns have that Ann Arbor doesn’t yet, and that really is a visible center.” Indeed, that is one of the primary reasons for Cronicle Press being founded this year as well, while Ann Arbor’s tech scene continues to grow at an accelerated pace but there is very little media coverage or visibility to match. Just two doors down, Arbormoon Software is only visible by a small sign on its front door, which is the usual label identifying a tech company in Ann Arbor. It’s almost like the fairy doors. They’re everywhere around town, but you have to look for them like some kind of scavenger hunt if you want to find them all. Cahoots aims to bring Ann Arbor’s tech scene up to the visible forefront of the business community, similar to Austin’s Capital Factory, which has coworking and event space and also a fund attached.

“The founders looked at what other tech towns have that Ann Arbor doesn’t yet, and that really is a visible center.”

Alison Todak, Managing Director Cahoots Coworking Space

One problem, maybe two. This is an open-concept work space, so even though there are conference rooms of various sizes sprinkled through the buildings with all connectivity your team could wish for, there is very little private space for people whose work requires more individual team space. This is intentional, to create a collaborative environment, which seems to be working well, but this space won’t work for anyone working with a lot of constant team interaction (as open as it is, this space is quiet) or for teams guarding a lot of proprietary information. There are living room areas, numerous nooks and seating areas, but not a lot of privacy.

Cahoots, Ann Arbor tech, Ann Arbor news, Ann Arbor tech space, coworking space,
A rendering of the future lobby of Cahoots, with the coffee shop, seating area and fireplace in the foreground, 2,000 sf event space behind. Above is a large kitchen with lunch booths.

“We’re currently testing a car-share program this quarter to see how it works.”

Alison Todak, Managing Director Cahoots Coworking Space

Second: no parking. Todak admits this is a potential problem for some, though members have access to a bike rack, city bus passes, and a Tesla car-share program in the works to give members the mobility to get around town during the day. “What if you need to pick up a big print run, or leave downtown?” Todak says. “We’re currently testing the program this quarter to see how it works.” Other members pay for local parking passes or park in garages downtown.

Cahoots soft launched last year and is planning to officially complete their renovations later this year. It’s not the cheapest option for coworking space for startups on a tight budget, but it does give teams access to all kinds of exposure in a tech-centric space that is an astonishing size. It’s corridor after corridor navigating this place, and when it’s finished, it should be fabulous. For anyone looking for what Cahoots offers, this could easily become that place you never leave. Yes, there’s foosball. 

May 12, 2019

About Author

laurakcowan Laura K. Cowan is a green tech editor and narrative journalist with 15 years’ experience promoting sustainability initiatives for automotive, green tech, and conscious living media outlets. She was called best copyeditor in the business by mentor and Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis, Jr.. A deep study of consciousness, nature writing, and sustainable technology topics allows Ms. Cowan to draw out meaningful stories of diverse professionals from indigenous healers to technology executives in a blend of news and literary journalism styles. She is currently co-founder and editor of tech news blog Cronicle Press, columnist and editor for Ann Arbor’s Crazy Wisdom Journal, and a contributor to local and national magazines such as The Ann Arbor Observer and Reiki News Magazine. Ms. Cowan’s writing and speaking have appeared with Automobile Quarterly, Writer Unboxed, Inhabitat, CNBC, and The National Society of Newspaper Columnists.


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