What We've Left Behind

It’s a bittersweet process, moving house. It’s exciting to start fresh, to be somewhere new and shiny and invigorating. Equally: it’s heartwrenching to leave a home, the physical space in which so many memories are bound up. We’ve done a great job of talking about the former both internally and externally… but this week, there was a palpable need that I felt (and saw in others) to mourn what we’re leaving behind.

Last Friday BizDojo Auckland moved from our digs at 150 Karangahape Rd into our new space at GridAKL in Wynyard Quarter. Our co-founder and CEO, Jonah Merchant, messaged the team later that night after the shift: “Milestone day today, full of lots of emotion for both team and residents. No way to understate the change here - leaving our spiritual home on K’Rd after six years is a huge step.”

Early days at the BizDojo Ironbank.

I didn’t feel it until today. Moving day was frantic and unlike Jonah, I felt nothing. I knew it would take sitting in our empty second floor Ironbank space, alone and in silence, to feel the weight of our departure. And here I am: watching our beautiful ferns that we’ve seen grow into maturity over several years being rolled out the door. On the one hand, I can acknowledge that our people are what bring our coworking spaces to life; on the other, sense of place is a thing, and as humans we are connected to our geographies. This is sad. I’m sad.

 

The BizDojo’s origin story is undeniably rooted in Karangahape Road… from our humble coworking beginnings on East Street, where our neighbours were sex workers, police, and the backpacker car lot; to the K’Road basement that housed Co.Space, bordered by op-shops and the iconic Verona Cafe; to our most recent and long-lived iteration in the uber-modern Ironbank building alongside Icebreaker, EMI Music, Spaceworks, Arcade, and more. K’Road has shaped our resident community, our social landscape, and proven to be a fertile ground for a professional community. Events like First Thursdays - where BizDojo could facilitate a tech demo in the Ironbank courtyard while Brazilian street performers juggled nearby - highlighted the spectral nature of creativity that K’Road spawned. Creatives are creatives whether they’re working in tech or performance art. All parts of that spectrum need each other, and K’Road is magical in that it can house them all. The BizDojo revelled in this; more, I believe we helped fuel it.

 

BizDojo Co.Space at 155B K'Road.

 

As BizDojo has grown up over the last six years - taken on additional tenancies, broadened our reach, refined and crystallised our thinking - we’ve seen the K’Road landscape shift around us as well. At a time when many people across various mediums are frantically trying to capture what they see as a rapidly disappearing K’Road essence, it seems inappropriate to do that here. But we too watched the sale of St. Kevin’s Arcade to developer Paul Reid, and saw the face of the arcade change - quite literally - into a brighter, but ever so slightly sterile, version of itself. As we mourn that, we also acknowledge how BizDojo was part of the beginnings of this change; we were one of the first tenants into a building that was made as an aspirational statement of intent to gentrify Karangahape Road. Whether we like it or not, we were part of the vanguard that brought tech, design, and the breed of new professional - along with the accompanying BMWs - to the neighbourhood.

 

BizDojo Ironbank, circa 2014.

 

I suspect the years we’ve spent on K’Road will be seen as the best transition years. We lived here at a time when there was a critical mass of designers, architects, web developers, and other urban professionals coexisting with enough grit and grime from K’Road’s storied history to keep it vibrant, interesting, and unpretentious. Whatever beautiful fresh canvas awaits us at Wynyard Quarter, it is never going to replace the cultural and economic zeitgeist of Karangahape Road over the last decade.

 

We’re not gone entirely. We opened a bar called Neck of the Woods at 155 K’Road, a steadfast connection to the neighbourhood that we’re relieved and grateful to keep. I’ll miss the morning walk that took me from one end to the other, terminating in the epicentre of it all amidst cafe footpath seating and tattoo shops. I’ll miss having my weekdays punctuated by the sounds of theatre students yelling from across the street, the common refrain of fire engine sirens (“I love working on K’Road, but it sounds like Beirut in the ‘90s” - Nick Shewring), and the woman who asked me to buy her ciggies every day for a year.

 

Our old view from BizDojo Ironbank, looking across K'Road.

 

I know that in five years time, our place in the Lysaght Building will prove to be just as formative for the next stage of our business. We’ll discover the idiosyncracies of the neighbourhood around us, or - more likely - we’ll create them. But whatever we do bring to our new home, it will have been directly informed by the messy brilliance of K’Road.

 

Sarin Moddle is the Operations Manager for the BizDojo. She still lives on K'Road. Follow her on Twitter here