Napier's Ahuriri will soon have its own slice of Silicon Valley, with a former wool store set to be transformed to the 3000sq m Tech Hub.
Wallace Developments managing director Jonathan Wallace said a trip to New York was the inspiration, where he researched workspaces by WeWork. The company specialises in shared spaces and services for communities of entrepreneurs, freelancers and start-ups.
The local version will offer a variety of spaces and have share green spaces and meeting rooms shared amongst tenants.
Because of the boom-or-bust nature of the sector some areas would be leased month by month and, as companies grew, they could lease larger spaces or firm up their commitment.
Mr Wallace said he had a personal interest in the tech sector so was willing to depart from the traditional long-term lease but it was a calculated risk.
"If we make a space good enough there will always be a demand for it," he said.
Anchor tenant is telecommunications company NOW and an Auckland company with 12 employees was signed up, as was local software company Red Jungle.
The native-timber floor will remain as will exposed beams, which will be cleaned but not repainted to retain the building's rustic roots.
A specialist firm will be engaged to safely remove asbestos cladding.
Logan Stone valuer and adviser Frank Spencer said the WeWork concept was part of a global "disruption" to conventional office spaces "brought about by the confirmed trends of portability, cloud storage/access, socialisation and openness".
He said because business sectors were rapidly changing companies needed flexibility to seize opportunities. "Occupants are less concerned with long-term quality of physical buildings and more with common areas, services, accessibility and capability to change," he said.
He wondered if a modern version of the traditional gentleman's business club was emerging.
"A key attraction is socialisation and learning off others, i.e. a hot desk neighbour."
Colliers International director Cam Ward said the real estate company went through a "massive selection process in both Napier and Hastings to find the perfect fit" for NOW.
NOW chief executive Hamish White said it was looking forward to moving to an environment "that is conducive to the sort of culture we want to build". An open collegial environment was "inextricably linked to the company culture".
"We want to create an atmosphere that is vibrant and true to what NOW is and a place people love coming to work in," he said. NOW is currently housed on both sides of Austin St in Onekawa, forcing staff to dodge traffic between meetings.
"It is fair to say the team are pretty excited."