It takes a bit of imagination and optimism to envision what the sprawling former Motorola campus on Austin’s far east side could one day become.
For now, it’s a mostly abandoned 1970’s era office park. But the work of transforming this 109-acre campus into a mixed-used development with space for startup offices, media studios, co-working, hotels, a gourmet grocer, retail shops and affordable housing has already begun.
When the full, multi-building project is complete it could be East Austin’s version of the Domain, which has become a hotspot for tech companies.
But, for now, only one building has a publicly-committed tenant — Work Well Win, a co-working space focused on wellness that is led by Frank Bistrian, WeWork’s former head of domestic development.
Bistrian told me Work Well Win plans to open nine locations this year, and Austin will be a flagship spot because of its incredible flexibility at the former Motorola chip plant, which was built in 1974. The co-working space is focused on corporate satellite offices, and it provides more space with less density, as well as thick glass office walls, to cut down on noise.
But Work Well Win is perhaps most differentiated by its focus on wellness. The space in Austin will have purified air, art installations, featured health and wellness speakers, zen areas and walking/riding trails along a stream that cuts through the emerging development. It also plans to offer yoga and cycling classes through partnerships with fitness companies. And Bistrian said Gotham Greens, which is farming on the roofs of Whole Foods in Brooklyn, will be on-site to grow enough food to feed the whole Work Well Win community.
“Our vision is just to make it a better place to work and a healthier place to work so it’s not the old drudgery of going to the office,” Bistrian told me before a presentation on the former Motorola campus with Austin nonprofits, real estate investors and startup founders. “This is where you want to come.”
Work Well Win is opening locations in Greenwich, Conn., New York City, Brooklyn, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Venice Beach and Santa Monica this year. Its spaces will likely house satellite offices of big financial services companies, as well as local startups. And each of the locations is designed to give those fast-paced workers a sense of calm.
In that respect, the Austin location may be a standout because of the large “blank slate” campus and natural features.
“Everybody is so hyper-focused on what they do and their work,”Bistrian said. “Nobody is out of touch with anybody anymore. Your phone is basically attached to you. So both on this campus and in this space you’ll have the ability to just breath for a few minutes before you get back to it with a little more energy.”
Phase 1 of the project includes 100,000 square feet of office space. It’s poised to open in late spring this year. The second phase, much of which will be completed before the first phase opens, will add another 150,000 square feet on upper level floors. Work Well Win has exclusive rights to co-working space on the entire campus, and it has first right-of-refusal on other buildings, giving it a chance to expand if it grows rapidly enough.
The campus opened in 1974 when Motorola set up its semiconductor business. That was later spun off into Freescale Semiconductor, which was later acquired by NXP. The campus has been vacant for years.
While it is currently mostly deserted, Eightfold, the Austin company that owns the property, has been in talks with several potential tenants. There are plans for a tiny home community on the campus. And the development is close to the airport, the forthcoming new HOPE Outdoor Gallery at Carson Creek Ranch, Mosaic Sound Collective, several film studios and the emerging Govalle and thinkEAST developments.
One of the potential tenants at the new development is MediaTech Ventures, the networking, funding and partnerships organization created by Paul O’Brien and John Zozarro.
O’Brien said he sees the development and MediaTech Ventures’ role in it as a way to bolster the art, music and media community in East Austin and as an anchor for the city’s media technology sector.
“We’re looking for that hub, that capstone that says ‘this is where Austin is exemplified,'” he said.
Correction: Frank Bistrian’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. It has been fixed throughout.