By Regina RaifordOn the back pages of old comic books, ads promised hours of fun with instant pets, and sea monkeys: “Just add water.” Well, one company has taken off with that idea by creating instant offices – funky, hip spaces for young companies. Kickstart Office Centers, based in New York City, started life two years ago as a real estate development firm concentrating on commercial office space in the midst of the dotcom boom. “We looked at this as an opportunity to serve the short-term needs of a lot of growing companies in the New York area,” says Carmel Kashani, president, Kickstart Office Centers.The company modernized a 40,000-square-foot warehouse that featured a small retail space and a courtyard. The simple brick building was transformed by Studios Architecture, Los Angeles, into an open, light-filled, welcoming office facility. Today, the brick courtyard offers brimming flowerpots and informal seating, while the café is perfect for tenants’ impromptu meetings. With bright colors, creative woodworking and masonry, exposed ductwork, and overhead television monitors, 535 West 34th St. is nothing if not hip. “In the common areas, walking down the hall, riding the elevators, everyone talks to one another. It’s a good buzz we’ve created within the space,” says Kashani. However, the hippest aspect of the six-story facility is the company’s fresh approach.“What Kickstart provides is wired, fully furnished office suites with professional administrative support staff and a sophisticated business environment – all at a price that makes it affordable for these companies to move in and start working right away,” says Kashani. The décor and attitude are fun and creative, appealing to public relations, advertising, and media firms. Currently, tenants range from graphic artists to movie production companies to rap artists. Adds Kashani, “The difference between Kickstart and some other executive suite companies in the market is the look and feel of our space.” Traveling sales staff and small companies can project an impressive presence easily and affordably.In addition to offering high-speed Internet access, conference rooms, and on-site IT support, Kickstart Office Centers provides tenant interaction. The company encourages collaboration among tenants with seminars on various tenant topics, including building security and raising venture capital during tough times. Kickstart Office Centers also offers “Toot Your Own Horn” events where, over pizza and sodas, tenants can describe and promote their services to other tenants. “I talk to the tenants daily and they are always saying, ‘Oh, I’m working with the guy on the sixth floor on designing my website,’ or ‘The attorney on the second floor is now doing our incorporation,’” says Kashani. The cross-pollination between tenants, as well as the communal, friendly atmosphere, is a definite selling point over impersonal, corporate environments.At Kickstart’s sister location in the financial district, the company joined the Downtown Alliance – the local business improvement district – to host community building events. In addition to fun activities, the events allow tenants to network with the diverse Downtown community.Along with a space that nurtures collaboration, Kashani believes tenants want flexible leases that give small companies the opportunity to grow. After the dotcom bust, the company re-focused on more traditional small- and mid-sized firms. The result is 90-percent occupancy.In the future, Kashani predicts the trend of the “virtual tenant” – tenants working from anywhere and everywhere while maintaining an office identity in buildings that offer a flexible infrastructure to support these executives on the go. “The concept behind this kind of space is full service. It’s as easy as renting a car from Hertz,” says Kashani.Instant offices: “Just add imagination.”Regina Raiford ([email protected]) is senior editor at Buildings and BI magazines.