Mission 50, a Hoboken co-working space that hosts a number of businesses and entrepreneurs, made plans to renovate in January of 2020, expanding from a fourth floor penthouse in the Hoboken Business Center to the second floor.
What it wasn’t expecting just two months later was the COVID-19 pandemic. Mission 50 was a place for people to get together. But meeting in person was no longer a safe option as the virus spread, and many moved to work from home.
Mission 50 was created in 2011 by JDA Group, a real estate firm in town that owns the business center building. A 20 minute walk away from Hoboken Terminal, the building was originally home to Cut-Rite Wax Paper before being repurposed by JDA in 2003.
Despite the pandemic, the company continued with its renovations, reopening in June of this year, with the entire building now rebranded as Mission 50. The reopening came just as New Jersey was on track to reopen with more people vaccinated, slowly returning to in-person work.
For Mission 50, the main question was whether workers would want to come back, stay home, or do a bit of both.
Gregory Dell’Aquila, CEO of JDA Group, noticed over the years that there were a lot of small office tenants, as well as the demand for small offices. A phone call sparked the idea of co-working.
“Somebody called, and I tried to sell them on a one person private office, and they said ‘No, I want to sit at a table and work in an open area.’” Dell’Aquila said. “That’s what got me into co-working. He explained it to me on the phone, and I invited him down, and we started a co-working business.”
Coworking spaces are where individuals or teams can rent office space. After its renovations, Mission 50 had a number of options, including privacy pods, office suites, and conference rooms. It also has amenities such as kitchens, a coffee bar, and a new game room on the second floor.
“We decided to renovate those offices that were smaller, and they provided the level of space for small companies of six people, or one person who wanted an executive office,” said Tim Connell, associate vice president of JDA Group. “It was great for what people wanted.” They gave the place a facelift, such as a new colorful mural on the exterior of the building, and an interior design created in collaboration with Hoboken-based companies.
The pandemic actually made Mission 50 invest more than originally intended on renovations.
“What ended up happening was that people didn’t feel comfortable because they were more comfortable in their homes,” Dell’Aquila said. “So what we ended up doing was creating spaces and amenities that would attract people, tenants and their employees to come back to work.”
The old plans were updated to add an amenity lounge, patio, and phone booths.
When the vaccines were distributed in 2021, more people started coming back to work.
Joel Newman, who does business development for the Google Play Store, started coming to Mission 50 about a month ago, having worked in Google’s Manhattan office before the pandemic.
“Because of the pandemic, it was really tough working from home, especially since we have a one-year-old,” Newman said. “So [because of] the lack of separation, I needed someplace to get out of the house.”
“It’s been lovely having the separation of work and home,” he said.
The pandemic brought working from home into the mainstream, where many worked virtually and held countless Zoom meetings. The new work style has brought a debate as to how work should continue in the future. Some want to return to the office, others prefer the comfort of home, while others might take a more hybrid approach.
Dell’Aquila believes that working from home will continue and that the hybrid scenario won’t be permanent. “Once you step back in the office, and people demand it because of the productivity changes, we’ll be back to where we were,” he said. “I don’t know how long that’s gonna take, but we will be back there.” For the future, Dell’Aquila wants to continue providing more flexibility by offering shorter terms for companies.
Newman plans to leave Google to pursue his job as a commercial theater producer full time. He says he was likely going to use a co-working space, but being at Mission 50 reaffirmed that it works. “Going to a co-working space is an effective way to be productive and have privacy.”
Mark Koosau can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org