The three floors occupied by the Port Workspaces in the Kaiser Center feature an enormous and colorful mural of a portal into space, a mini movie theatre, and a yoga room. Scattered throughout are giant beanbags in pink, beige and blue that workers can sink into.
But those are all standard fare in the Bay Area tech startup world. The real surprise exists on the third floor, the top of the Port Workspace.
Glass doors open to a small duck pond with a fountain that shoots mist up into the sky. A path leads from the pond along the perimeter of the roof through tall trees, green grass, and flowerbeds overflowing with pink, white and red blossoms. Down below are the busy streets of downtown Oakland.
The traffic sounds are faint up here. A Canada goose honks and flaps its wings. People murmur on their phones. Some pace, some sit on benches. Two women have just finished eating lunch beside the pond, their plastic takeout containers piled neatly beside them.
The building was once a mall before the Port transformed it into a co-working space for startups and techies.
Peering through the glass that divides the lobby and the workspaces of individual companies, one can imagine the retail storefronts once housed here, or the customers who rode the escalator with shopping bags in tow.
Its occupants today are young men in graphic t-shirts, one is wearing a Cal baseball cap turned backwards. Some are dressed in navy blue blazers, with slacks and colorful, striped socks. Women are walking around in leggings and knee high boots, often carrying a backpack, messenger bag, or laptop.
Upstairs is a former restaurant that has been converted into a workspace. It still looks like a restaurant, with a chandelier at the entrance, and a bar at the back. But patrons are unhurried, sipping a warm drink as they click away on their laptops. Some are meeting with coworkers.
Kim Adams, the community manager, said the Port was meant to be a transitionary home for startups. “It’s not meant to be permanent,” she said. “People start with two or three people, and then they grow to six, then they grow to ten, and they get to fifteen and they start pushing against their walls.”
Perched on a bar stool, Adams’s words are punctuated by a ringing phone and the hum of other conversations.