First look at the huge co-working space above S.F.’s downtown IKEA


After IKEA finally opens its new San Francisco store, the furniture giant’s sister company, Ingka Centres, will inaugurate some new initiatives in the Market Street location: a co-working space and a mall called the San Francisco Meeting Place. 

While IKEA is mum on its timing, other than saying it will open “soon,” Miia Kautovaara, who is the manager for the San Francisco Meeting Place, said the store will open first, followed by a co-working space called Hej! Workshop in early 2024 and then by the Meeting Place mall in spring 2024. The mall’s name has been changed from Livat.

“We’re putting a lot of thought and effort into creating a better workplace where people feel more energized,” Kautovaara said. 

Ingka Centres, IKEA’s sister company, which will run the mall, and Industrious, a New York co-working chain will run the Hej! Workshop gave the Chronicle a preview of the co-working plans. Hej! (pronounced “hay,” means “hello” in Swedish) is Ingka Centres’ first U.S. co-working space and only its second worldwide, after one it opened in Stockholm last year. 

“They want to create a very happy place where people want to come in, and feel welcome and energized to be there,” said Jamie Hodari, CEO and co-founder of Industrious, which has about 170 locations, mainly in the U.S., with six in the Bay Area. “That’s not rocket science, but it’s a different way of talking about primary workplace settings. You go to an IKEA furniture store and there’s a play on words in the furniture descriptions; we want that sense of joy and irreverence to come through here.”

Inkga Centres, IKEA’s sister company, opened its first Hej! Workshop co-working space in Stockholm in 2022. It offers spaces for collaboration and focused work.

Inkga Centres, IKEA’s sister company, opened its first Hej! Workshop co-working space in Stockholm in 2022. It offers spaces for collaboration and focused work.

Ingka Centres

Hej! Workshop will occupy all 46,000 square feet of the six-story building’s top floor. Outfitted with furniture from — surprise! — IKEA, the San Francisco space will feature a lounge area, cafe, wellness room for yoga and exercise, and a variety of flexible layouts for meetings of various sizes and focused work. 

“We are using biophilic design principles to support mental health, so we favor organic forms and natural materials — timber, stone, clay, and textiles,” Kautovaara said. 

Industrious said large windows will bring natural light deep into the space, highlighting its minimal design. “Part of our space will act as a showroom for potential Ikea for Business customers,” the company said.

Breakfasts, coffee, and snacks will be free. Industrious hosts occasional happy hours and lunches at its locations. At Hej! Workshop, it will offer food from the Scandinavian food court that will be on the mall’s second floor.

Susanna Balsvik, a freelance moderator for large events, was the first member of the Hej! Workshop on the outskirts of Stockholm, across from a Meeting Place mall. 

“I got tired of (working at home) and wanted to network and meet some people and have a decent office where I could have digital meetings or have a space for meetings in real life,” she said. “For me, it’s been very practical and convenient, and very good-looking. Everything was new and fresh. I love that.”

Inkga Centres, IKEA’s sister company, opened its first Hej! Workshop co-working space in Stockholm in 2022, and uses furniture from IKEA.

Inkga Centres, IKEA’s sister company, opened its first Hej! Workshop co-working space in Stockholm in 2022, and uses furniture from IKEA.

Inkga Centres

In some ways, it feels like an IKEA showroom, she said.  

“They have the little tags still on that say the name of the furniture or the lamp or desk or whatever,” she said. “So I’ve been learning about IKEA things.” She liked the smart lamps with built-in phone charging so much that she bought them for her children for Christmas. 

Balsvik is not alone in her desire to get out of the house. 

The post-pandemic world has given co-working a huge boost. Companies that gave up their permanent offices are now renting co-working spaces for their workers. People who work from home are using co-working as a social outlet, alongside the solopreneurs, freelancers and small startups who previously were the main clientele. 

A lot of smaller independent co-working spaces didn’t survive the pandemic, said Travis Howell, an Arizona State University assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship who researches co-working spaces and their impact on the nature of work. “The ones that survived are doing better,” he said. “They have a bigger pool of potential tenants. The mix has a bigger percentage of remote corporate workers.”

Industrious said its co-working spaces are utilized more often than traditional offices. Comparing its daily attendance to keycard swipes tracked by Kastle Systems, it said its San Francisco locations have attendance about 1.5 times higher than other local office buildings. 

Still, Hodari said, co-working spaces have to do more nowadays to lure customers. 

“If people are going to leave their homes, they want something warm, welcoming, where they’re exposed to new ideas and experiences,” he said. “Sterile, antiseptic, anodyne boring office environments are extraordinarily challenged right now because they haven’t earned the commute. Settings that feel really fun and inviting — people are particularly attracted to them in this day and age.”

Howell said he thinks Ingka Centres was wise to join forces with an established co-working company. 

“Industrious has the formula down of best practices and what a space should look like,” he said. “Rather than reinvent the wheel, a partnership like that makes sense.”

Ingka Centres bought 945 Market St. for $198 million in 2020 after the brand-new building sat empty since its 2016 completion. Its location between Fifth and Sixth streets has a reputation for crime and other social problems.  

“We obviously are very aware of the issues that the neighborhood has been and is going through,” Kautovaara said. “Therefore, security is our top priority. We want to make sure our customers, workers, neighbors and tenants can be in a safe space.” 

She declined to give further details, other than that Ingka Centres is working with the city, police, and security providers. “Once we will be open, we will learn more about reality,” she said.

Industrious’ Hodari said he isn’t fazed by security concerns. 

“These things evolve over time,” Hodari said. “I think this is a 15-year, hopefully even longer, bet on the vibrancy of that part of San Francisco. Even in the current moment, it’s not like we’re seeing a major business impact (from crime problems). We’re really excited that Inkga is investing in that Market Street corridor and we want to do that along with them.” 

While Hej! Workshop pricing has not been set yet, Hodari said it will be similar to other Industrious spaces. For instance, its Union Square location on Geary Street costs $399 a month for a standard membership with the use of the common areas and the ability to book private meeting rooms, ranging from $1,300 for a full-time private office. Hej! Workshop members will have access to all other Industrious locations, which include three in the city, and ones in Palo Alto, Walnut Creek, and Concord. 

The tenants for the Meeting Place mall aren’t yet known, but Kautovaara said it will have varied offerings, from restaurants to pop-ups to an innovative food court with Swedish cuisine. 

“We curate these Meeting Places based on local needs and desires,” she said. “We want to create synergies between the IKEA store, co-working, dining, and the rest of the Meeting Place. It goes beyond that traditional mall.”

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