Citizen Space: End of one era, beginning of the next

In early 2006, a group of us dreamers got together in a coffee shop in the Mission District of San Francisco to discuss how we were going to start a permanent space that was “like” a coffee shop, but was intended for independents and digital nomads who needed a place to work with others but separately. That meeting turned into a space and then another space and then something really amazing happened…because we did this all publicly and transparently, it started a worldwide movement.

That movement is Coworking, which at last count is a loosely-joined consortium of over 600 spaces worldwide and growing. There are now more than 3,000 members on the Google Group representing pretty much every country in the world. I have no idea how many people have been touched by Coworking (have worked in a space). But I’m pretty sure we can safely assume close to 100,000.

Citizen Space has always been my baby, though I still administer the Google Group and I used to be in charge of the blog (now that honor belongs to the fabulous Angel Kwiatkowski of Cohere) and tried to keep up the wiki (which now the equally fantastic Jacob Sayles of Office Nomads makes sure is clean as a whistle). I opened Citizen Space with Chris Messina in November of 2006 and expanded it with Hillary Hartley in February 2009.

When we opened CS, there were some other coworking-ish spaces in town: artist spaces, writers spaces and, of course Teh Hat Factory (which we opened with several others in spring 2006). But there weren’t any Coworking spaces. Today I think there are something like 7 or 8 of them. And they are doing a damned fine job of moving the movement forward and serving the needs of the community.

Which is why when we were told by April (Citizen Space General Manager) that the space was declining in membership and, well, it wasn’t really the community hub it used to be, I sat back and pondered the future of Citizen Space. It used to be the beacon for the movement – being one of the first spaces that launched the movement PLUS being run by a couple of the founders of the movement – but now the movement itself is well on its way and doesn’t need a beacon. It has real momentum and new hubs.

So…the time has come for Citizen Space to move on. We’ve put a call out to see if anyone wants to take it over or otherwise put the time into it that we no longer can (I’m in Montreal, Hillary has a baby and a house outside of SF and Chris is at Google), but really, I’m more than okay with letting it go. It’s done its job. She’s created her legacy.

Stay tuned for the next steps. There will be a sale of the contents if we do end up shutting down and DEFINITELY a big party. I’ll be coming to San Francisco for both.

Thank you for everything over the years. Working there. Supporting us. Coming to the events. Telling others about the space. And generally being amazing ambassadors of the movement that I’m incredibly proud of being a part of from the beginning. I love the community and what has emerged. I know that will live on. I hope you will be able to join me in San Francisco to bid adieu to one beacon of one era and ring in the next!

Categories: community, coworking, personal

Author:Tara Hunt

Strategist. Researcher. Interdisciplinarian. Founder, Lime Foundry + Buyosphere. Author, The Whuffie Factor. Speaker. Mother. Karaoke lover.


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26 Comments on “Citizen Space: End of one era, beginning of the next”

  1. Alex Wilde
    February 11, 2011 at 12:53 #

    I had the pleasure to work from Citizen Space during my three month stay in fall 2008. CS was the best thing that could happen to me at that time and I made great friends there, many of whom I’m still in touch with. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that CS is gonna stay alive and lets me rent a desk in April ;)

  2. February 11, 2011 at 12:55 #

    Is there ANY way that we can help keeping it alive ? I would be so sad to see it go ? I mean, I can’t rent a desk there, but maybe there’s some other way of keeping it going ?

  3. Tara Hunt
    February 11, 2011 at 12:58 #

    @Henriette – It’s a-ok to let it go. It will live on in legacy. Propping it up with fundraising drives is not really the point. It was never meant to be a business. It was always meant to provide a service…a service well-provided by the multiple other spaces in SF now. I’m at peace with this.

  4. February 11, 2011 at 13:01 #

    This hits close to home as I struggle to keep Carrboro Coworking open. It’s a crazy roller coaster that I’m not sure when I should get off.

  5. Tara Hunt
    February 11, 2011 at 13:01 #

    @Alex It was a pleasure to have you there! Hope to catch up with you again in the future!

  6. Tara Hunt
    February 11, 2011 at 13:04 #

    @Brian We went through many ups and downs. I put in well over $30,000 of my own money over the years (that I could totally use now!). But it was worth it to see the multitude of other spaces opening up in SF and around the world. I held on until I didn’t need to anymore. That’s what you need to determine. :)

  7. February 11, 2011 at 13:22 #

    Tara, Hilary and April,

    What a journey you have been on and what weight you must have weighed this decision with. Citizen Space has been the beacon, as you say, for most of us in this zany and exciting movement that is coworking. I think I can speak for everyone I know to say that we will all honour the memory of Citizen Space and the ground you have laid for each of us who benefits from collaborative work space. As I sit here in NextSpace Santa Cruz answering phones and helping members I am reflecting on what awesome things you have done, and looking forward to seeing what you do next. To you who have come before us we say thank you. I would love to be at the farewell party, please send us an invite!

    Best – Iris

  8. February 11, 2011 at 13:41 #

    I’m proud that Eye-Fi has been able to be a part of Citizen Space for the past ~2.5 years. I wish we could have contributed more, financially or otherwise.

    One of the most enjoyable projects I did for art school last semester was making a promotional poster for a cause or organization I supported. I picked CS and made this poster:

    All the best with Shwowp! Everything will be fine. ;)


  9. Enric
    February 11, 2011 at 14:28 #

    Look forward to the party — I’ll probably bring my videocam. As you know I was at Ritual Roasters for that meeting ;)

  10. Sasha
    February 11, 2011 at 15:31 #

    For the last several months, all we’ve been hearing about is more and more spaces opening up in SF. But the more newcomers there are, the more it makes us think of the good old days of early coworking.

    It also makes us wonder how our own journey in coworking would have been different if Citizen Space never existed.

    Whatever happens, I hope your transition is a smooth one – please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.

  11. February 11, 2011 at 17:21 #

    Sounds like a completely rational and appropriate way to proceed.

    You know that I am so glad that we connected along this crazy (and important) ride.

    If you end up through a party, I might even get on a plane to attend!

  12. February 11, 2011 at 18:32 #


    Definitely the end of an era, but you should be proud of what you started. No question it was a trailblazing/gutsy move at the time. It also takes courage to close something down after it has run its course.

    This brings back good memories! Collector’s items? :)


  13. February 12, 2011 at 04:18 #

    Dear Citizen Space Team!

    I can feel with you. We have gone through a similar phase transition last year with CoOrpheum (; Coming into the world with an innovative idea when the time is not ripe, will result perhaps in decline. However the ideas and spirit are kept like in the cherry stones, when the cherry tree is knocked down. New things will emerge and the changing times around the world will tell a story soon.

  14. February 12, 2011 at 08:22 #

    Thanks for showing the way Tara. We just opened a place in Paris, we don’t know what’s going to happen but since we started to think about setting up a coworking place (4months ago) we met a bunch of great people and everything went on incredibly well…
    Enjoy your new start.
    Good luck,

  15. Tara Hunt
    February 12, 2011 at 08:55 #

    @Ralf I’m not sad about this. And there wasn’t a decline. I live 80 thousand miles away from CS and it did what it set out to do. I’m happy with the decision. I hope nobody thinks of this as a decline/negative thing. Everything has it’s time.

  16. Tara Hunt
    February 12, 2011 at 08:57 #

    Let me repeat here what I’ve said in other places:

    Citizen Space was NEVER meant to be a business. It was meant to be a community service. It was meant to be a temporary thing to be a beacon to an everlasting movement. In no way, shape or form did any of us think of Citizen Space being around forever. In fact, I’m quite happy to close it because it means other spaces can emerge. That was the point in the first place.

  17. February 13, 2011 at 00:01 #

    @Tara, Thanks for your clarification. You are right it is always the community that drives a place like that. Living things have to go away in order to give room for new. I meant the “decline” in the purely objective sense.

    Everything will find its time and space!

  18. February 14, 2011 at 10:13 #

    I’m happy enough to be a part of Citizen Space for at least one month. I’m sad to read this, but hey – Coworking is all about community.

    Thanks to all founders, people in charge, people I met there @jtag, @jasonwalen, @1933beer and more.

    You inspired me to found my own Coworking Space ( and last but not least – you made not only Citizen Space but the world “a better place to work”! YEAH!

  19. February 14, 2011 at 10:36 #

    I used to go to San Francisco annually on business (Oracle OpenWorld), and I regret that I didn’t take the time to stop by Citizen Space. A thanks to everyone involved for your “beaconing.”

  20. February 15, 2011 at 11:29 #

    Andy and I had lunch with Thomas Knoll over the weekend and he mentioned this. I am so sad to see it go. I think Citizen Space was the catalyst for change and innovation for so many people, businesses and ideas. You should be very proud of what you created.

  21. February 15, 2011 at 14:56 #

    Thanks very much for getting things rolling on coworking. Though I’ve never been to Citizen Space, its effects are very much felt at Tenpod, a coworking space in Portland I’ve had the pleasure of being in since December. It was actually purpose built as one in 2007, as part of a funky red building called Burnside Rocket. Happy to report it’s still very much going strong, and many of its elements: Diverse, engaged creative professionals, friendly, lively vibe where people dont think twice to help each other, bring food in, etc, owes a lot to the tone you set. Thanks.

    If you’re ever in Portland, come on by and say Hi. We’ve got a pub downstairs, and a restaurant with a living roof it gets its produce upstairs :)

  22. February 16, 2011 at 22:42 #

    Vancouver’s equivalent was a place called “workspace”. I’m not using hyperbole when I say it changed my life. I just *happened* to need office space and it *happened* to be a couple buildings away from my home in gastown so I signed up. I signed up little dreaming: the space itself – implicitly about collaborating, open, egalitarian – would redefine my understanding of business; little dreaming I’d attend something called a BarCamp (wtf?); little dreaming I’d attend monthly things called DemoCamps (again, wtf?) where people with brilliant ideas would let down their guard entirely and share ideas and visions. I learned to blog there. I joined twitter there. And I met hipsters (remember, I’m a middle-aged woman. It was a whole new phenomena for me) there.
    Honest to god, it revolutionized my business and revolutionized me. I miss it, to this day.

  23. February 22, 2011 at 14:49 #

    “I opened Citizen Space with Chris Messina in November of 2006”

    I don’t mean to open old wounds but it is not true that only you and Chris opened Citizen Space.

    We’ve all moved from that era but that doesn’t change the reality of the facts. I was there when the lease was signed, when we picked out the furniture in Ikea, when we put it together, when we were covered in paint, when we opened for business.

    And really Sofia and Ivan should be credited for their efforts too.

    I intentionally didn’t post this when you made the announcement because I don’t want to take away from the success and achievement of Citizen Space.

    But facts are facts and I think it’s sad you decided to represent things in this way. If you want to chat about this offline my email address is in the comment form.

    Best wishes, Ben

  24. March 6, 2011 at 23:08 #

    Your example is inspiring. I’ve been curious about co-working since my days in Seattle and I am just getting serious about starting something here in Durham, NC. I love that it was meant to be a community thing; I think that’s crucial.

    Love to hear more thoughts on the “next” stage of this movement in Austin!



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    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shannon Clark, Tara missrogue Hunt, Alex Hillman, Cesar Torres, Hillary Hartley and others. Hillary Hartley said: The future of Citizen Space…end of an era: β€” and a note from @missrogue […]

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