A new generation of co-working (with childcare!) is in-the-works in Walnut Hills

The new co-working space Caalma, short for “Casa de Alma”(or “Home for the Soul”), is designed to provide a truly integrative workplace experience for professionals. With a creative aesthetic featuring amenities like art studios, private offices, and optional childcare services, this “village for the modern family” brings a new approach to workplace design and professional life.

For Rebecca Dorff Cadena, Caalma’s executive director, launching Caalma is both a creative and professional project as well as a deeply personal one.

She is the third generation owner of the family design and architecture firm Schikel Design and a mother of three. Early in her career, Cadena experienced the struggle of maintaining a work/life balance while trying to pursue professional aspirations and also maintain connections with her children.

She suggests that integrating these different parts of life requires reimagining both the personal workplace and shared community space.

On the Caalma website, she explains it this way:

We believe that the common US model of separating childcare, 9-5 office jobs is a broken model that doesn’t promote wholeness…“

“We believe that people of all ages have a natural symbiosis — children should be able to see adults at work, young people share companionship, families support each other, and elders offer guidance and insight. To silo people off in their own little bubbles does us all a disservice.

She continues, “I know that I am my best, most whole self when I can bring together my work and my family in a meaningful way. Caalma exists to make this possible for you.”

The concept for Caalma has been brewing for a while, but the location came together recently, while Cadena’s firm was working with Church of the Advent in Walnut Hills on a new master plan and vision for their building.

The historic Episcopal church sits just blocks off of busy McMillian Avenue. In recent years, the church has become a beloved neighborhood gathering place because of its Open Doors ministry’s food pantry and café, as well as other services to lower-income residents. But, with a small worshipping congregation, a large portion of Church of the Advent’s building remains vacant much of the time.

The church’s new priest is re-imagining how to offer the space to the community. And, with a similar vision for a more holistic personal and communal life, Caalma was a good fit to occupy the vacant space.

Caalma’s vision for the workplace is inherently communal, but with flexibility for personal needs.

There are public spaces — a kitchen and dining hall, meeting rooms, etc. — as well as private, designated offices and art studios.

Currently undergoing renovation, the lower level of the building will house Caalma’s childcare center. Staffed by childcare professionals, the facilities will include indoor and outdoor play areas, quiet areas and nap rooms, private nursing rooms, and quick access to children from the co-working space.

Childcare services are optional for Caalma clients (and cost extra) but are sure to be the hallmark of their business model. It’s a unique offering among leading options in the co-working industry.

The business is based on a membership model that starts at $125 a month for access to basic amenities, but anyone can use the workspace for a day for a $25 fee.

Caalma’s membership pricing is very competitive, with childcare rates very affordable compared to similar drop-in facilities. As the business grows and its model evolves, there is the potential for a sliding scale or case-by-case price adjustments to accommodate its clients.

Madeline Palmer is Caalma’s director of operations. She’s currently overseeing the development of Caalma’s childcare center.

She says that, after two years of a global pandemic, on-site childcare is a timely concept. Many professionals are rethinking the relationship between their work and family and the workplace is ripe for re-imagining.

“During the pandemic,” she says, “everyone was with their kids and a lot of people valued that time. But now that things are opening up and we’re hitting the grind, people are missing their kids.”

You can have a balance of both with Caalma, she says.

By design, it will be a space where anyone can carve time away to focus on work while keeping their children nearby, but not under foot. It provides the best parts of working from home without the constant distractions.

Palmer is quick to clarify, though, that Caalma isn’t just for parents. It’s a workplace for artists and small business owners, freelancers, and creative teams.

“It’s truly for whoever needs to get whatever done,” she explains.

Still in its pilot phase, Caalma has not formally launched for co-working, but some of the common areas and personal workspaces are already being used by the church, the Walnut Hills community, and a few development-phase clients. The business is pursuing its permits for childcare services while raising funds to complete the renovations.

Palmer says there is no hard launch date set, but summer 2022 is likely and it might be necessary to open in phases. And, along with standard co-working amenities, Caalma will evolve with the needs of its members.

She mentions the possibility of take-home meals or other partnerships with nearby Walnut Hills businesses to provide services to clients. There are plans to provide robust online services and resources for truly modern (and virtual) families to connect in other ways, as well.

Caalma’s goal is to provide a “home for the soul” for Walnut Hills residents and other Cincinnati-area professionals. To that end, all of the newly renovated spaces will be accessible to Church of the Advent for its programs and public events.

Palmer says that the facility is, first and foremost, a church and that Caalma is “only a guest” in the space. They hope to become a new, integral partner in the community.
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Liz McEwan is a proud wife, mama, urbanite, musician and blogger. Follow her at The Walking Green and on twitter at @thewalkinggreen.