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  1. Clearwater

Clearwater gave this office space project $600,000 in 2017. How is it doing?

The Ring Room, the main conference from at The Ring Workspaces which can host 50 people. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published May 23

CLEARWATER — The Ring in downtown Clearwater doesn't much resemble an office space.

That's the idea.

Daniels Ikajevs, a real estate developer who owns several properties downtown, and his team set out in 2016 to create the world's healthiest workspace. About $2 million later — including $600,000 from the city of Clearwater — The Ring Workspaces LLC, 18,000 square feet of office and coworking space, is the result.

To tour the space, on the third floor of One Clearwater Tower, 600 Cleveland St., is to be transported to a place with a modern sheen that borders on satire. Except there is no punchline. Developing a healthy workplace is serious business. Ikajevs, his wife, Simee Adhikari, and his project manager, Janelle Branch, were meticulous in their planning.

Walls are transparent, giving every office a view of the outside world. Individual office spaces have no trash cans, forcing workers to get up and walk periodically to the communal garbage. But not even the trash bags there are made from plastic. No single-use plastics are allowed in The Ring.

It's impossible to work at cafeteria tables decorated with potted plants suspended by magnets, because the magnets would turn off a laptop. Recycled materials are used wherever possible: one room is lined with stylishly repurposed newspaper.

"We want to revolutionize how people feel inside a space," Ikajevs said from inside the conference room that doubles as a regulation-sized table tennis facility.

Read more: Developer says his hub of shared workspace could help spark downtown Clearwater

Coworking is a growing regional and worldwide trend, according to industry research. The idea is to provide office space for those who work nominally from home, but who don't want to work from the place they live.

The Ring aims to take that idea one step further, incorporating wellness into the equation. It offers four membership levels. The least expensive level, $45 per month, grants members a mailbox and the ability to rent out conference rooms. The most expensive level, $370 per month, gives a member a private office.

Branch said the space, which opened in April, is already home to 72 individuals from 36 different companies.

Among the groups to use The Ring is the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, which holds its monthly board meetings in its large conference room.

"Projects like these dramatically lift the capacity of business in Clearwater to grow," wrote Mike Sutton, the Chamber's Board Chair, in an email.

Ikajevs first came to the Tampa Bay area from his native Latvia for college in 1999. After he graduated, he started a career in real estate. He bounced around the area as he grew his portfolio, living in St. Pete Beach and Palm Harbor before eventually settling in Clearwater.

The Ring is named after its multimedia space shaped like a boxing ring. In a past life, Ikajevs was a fighter.

Inside and outside of the titular ring, the space is quality controlled to the nth degree. Every morning, the dozens of assigned chairs in the Contender's Club space are perfectly realigned. Sensors have been installed on the customizable lights in the office spaces so The Ring can track how users prefer to have their spaces lit.

Every individual desk can be converted to a standing workspace with the push of a button. Any member is free to grab sleep — in 20-minute-or-fewer increments — in The Ring's futuristic-looking sleep pod. (It sort of looks like a dentist's chair with a large white sphere around where the head rests.)

Ikajevs constantly tracks certain wellness metrics. A few taps on his phone, and he's able to pull up the office's room temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels. Several members of The Ring are also participating in a Harvard University study that aims to track the effect of the workplace on health.

In 2017, Clearwater Community Redevelopment Agency voted 3-1 to give $600,000 to the project. Ikajevs said that money helped make The Ring viable. He hopes to give the city a return on its investment first by giving Clearwater a downtown working hub, then by scaling the workplace wellness concept nationwide.

Amanda Thompson, the director of the agency, said she's encouraged by The Ring's progress since the city grant was awarded.

"Initial results are promising," Thompson said. "It's a beautiful space."

This article has been changed to reflect the following correction: The Ring project cost $2 million in total, including $600,000 from the city of Clearwater. Benefits of the $45 monthly membership do not include access to the coworking space. An earlier version incorrectly listed the total cost and the membership benefits.

Contact Kirby Wilson at kwilson@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8793. Follow @kirbywtweets.

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