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Cool office spaces redefine what it means to go to work in Tampa, St. Pete

Meeting at VACO in Tampa.


VACO partner Jim Parker and Chris Nelson celebrate Wind Down Friday.


Chris Nelson and Kimberly Wacaser clap for coworker April Croswhite rings the office gong.


Kicking the ball around at VACO in Tampa.

One of the festive meeting rooms at VACO.

Meeting at VACO in Tampa.

VACO meeting space.

From imaginative freelancers to innovative full-time workers, creatives of all stripes are in hot demand in the Tampa Bay area.

While independent contractors are taking advantage of the boom in local co-working spaces, more and more companies are redesigning their offices to especially cater to their Gen-Y and younger employees.

The result? A slew of progressive, out-of-the-box workspaces emerging throughout the region. 83 Degrees takes you on a tour of a few examples of local offices that are a fresh departure from tradition.
 
Eagle Datagistics
111 2nd Avenue NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Don't expect to find the CEO of Eagle Datagistics tucked away in a cushy corner office. Instead, Chuck Egerter shares his sweeping, 10th-floor view of downtown St. Pete with the rest of his team. In fact, he's done away with walls altogether.

"We have the entire thing open so that everyone can enjoy the view," says Egerter, who adds that their space in the Plaza Tower building was once a dentist's office before Eagle Datagistics gutted it with a fresh redesign last year.

Eclectic local artwork punctuates the space, giving it a modern, almost Warhol-like feel. As far as conference rooms go, Eagle's features floor-to-ceiling glass and overlooks the water. But Egerter shares that the tech company also holds meetings in a "chill lounge" that touts circular Plexiglas windows emblazed with creative sayings. ("A goal without a plan is a wish" is one example.)

The office isn't designed this way just to be cool -- it also helps attract and retain young, talented employees, Egerter says.

Ernst & Young
One Tampa City Center 
201 North Franklin Street, Suite 2400 
Tampa, FL 33602

The EY office in Tampa is a far cry from a stuffy accounting firm. The open, work-from-anywhere feel is reflected in the fact that there are no assigned seats for employees. Even Office Managing Partner Mike Brennan isn't confined to a separate office.

"When I check in, I swipe my badge at the front and then look for an open spot to work," he says. "Then my phone and everything else are connected there as if it were my permanent space."

The office's home base is its Connect Cafe, which feels more like a coffee shop than a secondary workspace-slash-hangout; yet that's exactly what it is. Brennan says that some employees prefer to settle in at the cafe with their laptop for a day's work. Other days, they might meet up with team members for an impromptu meeting at one of their Mediascapes (curve-shaped booths with large computer monitors in the center).
 
"The main objective here is that it gives the main generation of folks that we're hiring today the ability to work the way they want to work," says Brennan, adding that their average employee is in their late 20s.

Squaremouth
100 Second Avenue South, Suite 1200
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

The iconic workspaces that house the big tech giants of Silicon Valley are what inspired Squaremouth's office layout. 

"We're a software company, and we kind of reflect that software company vibe in our office," says Director of Marketing Megan Singh. "We're really an open book because transparency is one of our greatest core values."

The idea of transparency was a driving force in the office's design concept, which features glass conference rooms and wide-open workspaces. A glance around the office reveals no cubicles. Instead, casually dressed employees cozy up on the carpet with laptops in hand, ready to work. (Shoes are also optional.) Other folks might bounce ideas off each other over a game of snooker.

"It's actually required that you sit somewhere different than you did the day before to help you interact with other people," says Singh.

Squaremouth also keeps kegs of beer on hand for after-work unwinding.

Vaco
4030 W. Boy Scout Blvd., Suite 100
Tampa, FL 33607

When it comes to recruiting companies, most utilize traditional interview rooms with standard roundtables and black leather chairs. Vaco, which works with accounting, financial, IT and administrative professionals, much prefers a more personal experience. 

"It was really important for our managing partner to take that a whole new direction and just make it really comfortable for people looking for work," says Office Manager Ali Donnel. "If you can make the space more comfortable, you can really find out more about the individual, and then find them a better match for their next career goal."

The idea has given rise to some truly original interview spaces. For starters, each of Vaco's interview rooms corresponds to a fun theme. "The Ybor" room, for example, is spruced up with tropical plants and old pictures of Tampa that mirrors the feel of a cigar lounge. Meanwhile, "The Studio" room is decked with vinyl records and funky furniture fit for a recording exec.

"Working in a space that is beautiful and exciting makes it really nice to come to work," Donnel adds.

Vaco employees also enjoy regular dress-up days. Coming to work dressed like a tacky tourist isn't out of the ordinary.

PNC Bank
One Tampa City Center
201 North Franklin Street, Suite 1500
Tampa, FL 33602

PNC's regional headquarters is located right in the heart of downtown Tampa. In fact, its name and logo grace the top of One Tampa City Center. Company reps say the location was a deliberate business decision.

"We feel like downtown is the financial hub of the west coast of Florida, so it was a strategic move to be here," says Dianne Jacob, PNC Senior VP and Director of Client and Community Relations. "It's also a great live, work and play environment for our employees."

The PNC office puts a sleek, modern twist on financial business. Jacob also refers to the space as a very open and collaborative environment. The office's central location, which allows for frequent interaction with the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation, only adds to the appeal. 

But it's the office's green initiative that makes it a real standout in the region. PNC made headlines a couple of years back when it majorly overhauled its headquarters. The renovations earned PNC the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Certification for commercial interiors, reported the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2013.

The 15th-floor view also isn't shabby.

"It's nice to be able to get a glimpse of the city from up here," adds Jacob, who says that the office is representative of the energy in Tampa.

Chappell Roberts
1600 E. 8th Avenue, Suite A-133
Tampa, FL 33605

Chappell Roberts is an advertising agency that's all about finding ways to spark creativity, which makes it a particularly cool place to work. Recognizing that a change in scenery can sometimes be the best way to get into the flow, the company encourages its workers to get outside.

"We have employees who take their laptop or iPad down the street to sit in the park and work," says President and CEO Colleen Chappell. "We've even had staff meetings at Ybor City Park - whatever it takes to keep the creative juices flowing."

Chappell says the city serves as the agency's figurative office. Of course they have an actual office as well, which is designed to inspire. When visualizing a potential new project, Chappell and her team can take advantage of one of their many unique brainstorming tools. From giant corkboard walls to hanging butcher paper, she makes sure her employees always have tools on hand to generate new ideas.

"It's all about having different formats for people to create," Chappell says. "What I see and find is that people want a variety of different ways and methods to get their ideas out."

She adds that having downtime to let new ideas marinate is a key part of the creative process, which is why the office is dotted with comfy lounge chairs and couches.

Valpak
805 Executive Center Drive West
St. Petersburg, FL 33702

Coupon giant Valpak made a splash a few months back when it relocated its corporate headquarters to a buzz-worthy new office in North St. Pete. Valpak is all about community, and it shines through in its company culture.

"Our digs are open, collaborative, fun and neighborly; just like the Valpak brand," says PR Manager Marsha Strickhouser.

"Neighborly" is the operative word here. Within the Valpak offices, each department is actually broken down into its own "neighborhood." Natural light floods the large space, which takes up three floors and is home to 300 employees. (Another 400 work out of a separate manufacturing center.)

"Having an open plan with windows all over allows for a fresh atmosphere," says Strickhouser. "The bright colors provide a punch of fun, and the bold graphics on nearly every wall clearly show we want it to be a lively, energetic and fun place to work."

An on-site game room, treadmill room and more only drive home that message.

Twelfth Street Studio
101 S. 12th Street, Suite 104
Tampa, FL 33602

Architects Rick Penza and Brandon Hicks know a thing or two about designing interesting spaces -- their resumes are packed with impressive residential and commercial projects. So it comes as no surprise that the Twelfth Street Studio team's workspace, which doubles as Penza's home, is also exceptionally cool.
 
"We were looking for office space at the same time I was looking for a living space, and so it just happened this way for us out here in the Channel District," says Penza.

The 1,700-square-foot space is split between two levels that are completely open. The bottom floor, which serves as their office, is brimming with angular furniture, contemporary light fixtures and minimalist decor. A steel staircase leads up to Penza's living area, which also doubles as additional meeting space.

"It's a pretty flexible space in terms of how we use it," says Hicks. "We're in the process of converting the bedroom space into a Murphy bed-type setup where the bed can be hidden away."

While some contract workers come in and out of the picture from time to time, it's usually just Hicks and Penza working in the space, so the setup suits them fine. It also redefines the meaning of "working from home."

"It is tough to get away sometimes, but I actually like the fact that my commute is only 20 steps away," Penza says. "At the same time, I feel that if you love what you do, it's not really work; it's just part of your life."

SavvyCard
One Progress Plaza, Suite 111B
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Located above an art gallery in downtown St. Pete is SavvyCard, a budding tech startup that creates web-based business cards. Savvycard Cofounder and CMO Lisa Nalewak says they're really more of a customer service startup that happens to have a technology platform. Either way, the company culture definitely has a techy, entrepreneurial vibe.

"Our workspace really reflects that communal spirit," says Nalewak, who adds that the research and development team works right alongside the marketing department. "It's an open space because it's really important for what we do that we have that collaborative ability."

The lunch area serves as a secondary shared workspace complete with a huge whiteboard wall -- perfect for talking through ideas over lunch.

Nalewak says that their St. Pete location, which is one of the area's fastest expanding tech hubs, also helps foster creativity.
 
"St. Pete is such a vibrant, growing community that I think eclipses Tampa in terms of its technology prowess," she says.

Who else?

Use the Facebook feed space below to share additional cool work spaces in the Tampa Bay region or email us your comments.

Read more articles by Marianne Hayes.

Marianne Hayes is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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