Liz Dunn’s new Capitol Hill coworking project puts flexible work space beneath your feet

Capitol Hill super developer Liz Dunn — she earns the “super” part for creating projects that excel in re-use and neighborhood fit — has taken her latest project underground. Filling in a space that used to be the Balagan Theater and a toy shop at 12th and Pike, coworking space Agnes Underground debuted with a party Wednesday night. You can start working there today. You’ll have an interesting coworker at the next desk.

“Yes, I’ll be working here,” Dunn told CHS Wednesday night. “My table is right over there.”


Dunn is one of about 20 people already using the basement space in the Agnes Lofts apartment building as it emerges from its “stealth” period. The project takes over the old theater the Balagan called home and a portion of the area left behind when Izilla Toys moved up to street level (before it closed shop) beneath Boom Noodle, Plum and La Spiga. Just outside the Underground’s glass doors are the desks of Graham Baba, the firm responsible for many of the city’s food and drink design trends, and office areas for the Piston Ring building’s restaurant owners including Makini Howell.

(Images: Agnes Underground)

Dunn’s new venture adds to a growing roster of drop-in and long-term coworking options on a Capitol Hill that needs the space.

“Seeing another space gets me excited because I know there is such a great need for dynamic, collaborative spaces in the city,” Susan Evans of Capitol Hill coworking grandaddy Office Nomads said. “Seeing one open in the neighborhood is a great sign as far as I’m concerned, because Capitol Hill is such a dense neighborhood full of all sorts of folks who would benefit from the regular experience of coworking.” Evans’ Nomads debuted way back in 2007. Full disclosure: CHS is a member. Last summer, CHS reported on the debut of The Mill, another neighborhood shared work space in the Broadway Building.

The cost of working in a space with stylish design and some high caliber neighbors is cheaper than your plan to buy a latte every day this month to justify your five-hour squats at Vita or Vivace:

Agnes Underground offers membership options to meet the needs and budgets of its partners. For only $100 per month, a “Flex Desk” membership ensures access to any of the space’s open desks, free WiFi and a color printer/copy/fax machine, use of conference area, and access to a kitchenette with espresso machine. A “Fixed Desk” membership costs $250 per month, and ensures all of the Flex Desk benefits, plus access to a large permanent desk with a Herman Miller chair and a locking file cabinet.   

All memberships are month-to-month, and include secure entry from 7am to 12 midnight. The pet friendly space also offers a private conference area with a Polycom conference phone, couches and beanbag chairs conducive to less formal meetings, and rentable storage lockers. 

For Dunn, who had a busy Wednesday as she was also honored by Senator Maria Cantwell for a 2012 Women of Valor award at a luncheon earlier in the day, creating Agnes Underground was both a function of need and the expression of a type of project she’s had on her mind. “It was a little bit of both, really,” Dunn said of what drove her to create a coworking space — the challenges of finding a tenant for the subterranean space or the challenge of building a community work space. “We gave it a few months but [a tenant] didn’t emerge,” she said. The result was an opportunity to put into motion a concept Dunn has been considering for some of the projects currently on her shelf of planned work.

As for whether she’s ready for the full coworking experience of working at an open desk in the middle of a busy room of people juggling a full spectrum of creative — and sometimes loud — project, Dunn is about to find out. “It’s been pretty quiet around here. I’m ready for it to fill up.”

You can learn more about Agnes Underground at agnesunderground.com.

10 thoughts on “Liz Dunn’s new Capitol Hill coworking project puts flexible work space beneath your feet

  1. You know a drop in option (daily rate/hourly rate) would be nice. I know a drop in isn’t the ideal type of customer.

    I could easily see using something like this for the occasional meeting but that wouldn’t justify a month of membership.

  2. I was thinking the same thing. I generally work from home, but if my internet goes out I’m hosed. This would be much preferable to squatting in a Starbucks and overdosing on coffee all day.

  3. Not sure what sort of light bulbs are in use, but it would amazing if she chose full spectrum bulbs (the kind that replicate natural sunlight.) Being in a windowless basement for hours at a time could be a downer, especially if under florescent bulbs.

  4. Yes, the Hub network has been around for some time, and there is a Hub right here in Seattle! If you’re interested in coworking and want to learn more, be sure to start your search at http://coworking.com. There are plenty of opportunities to learn more, contribute to the coworking movement, and learn how to start your own space.

  5. This sounds really cool and, more importantly, necessary.
    ONE TIP/SUGGESTION: Install bookcases, perhaps even one’s with lockable doors for folks whose works requires access to books or other materials. Lockers, perhaps?

  6. Hi I learned about this concept many years ago. We called it back then an incubater. Know the new word is co-working. I need one and I have not been able to find any current ones here in boston. Can you give me some ideals?

  7. Kudos to Liz for opening up her own space! I founded something similar, a coworking space in San Diego called Hera Hub. It is a spa inspired workspace for women entrepreneurs in the area. It’s only been open 9 months but we are thriving and I’m sure it won’t be long until Agnes Undergroun will be too! Keep up the good work Liz!