J Space beta
J Space beta was in operation both as a shared workspace and as a learning lab for innovative Jewish projects from April of 2011 to June of 2014. A project Jumpstart Labs (jumpstartlabs.org), J Space was created to serve as the launchpad for a full-scale implementation of the J Space vision, a combination of permanent and temporary office space, shared facilities and services, and a center that provided ongoing education and organizational development to support local Jewish nonprofits. Organizations and individuals (including freelancers) made use of J Space beta, and ultimately, J Space, in a variety of ways: from having dedicated office space, to making use of drop-in work/meeting space, to access to shared professional staff, to attending educational workshops and seminars.
The J Space suite was in Gateway Building West on Avenue of the Stars in Century City. Completed in 1963, Gateway West was the first building erected in Century City—designed in the International Style with a façade made of aluminum. Outside the suite’s conference room a bridge spanned Avenue of the Stars connecting the plaza where Gateway West once stood to its sister building Gateway Century East.
J Space was made possible by the generosity of Peter and Janine Lowy and the Westfield Corporation who gave Jumpstart a great deal on an amazing space. They gave use the rental at below market rate to have an office for Jumpstart and location for J Space. It was a beautiful suite with floor to ceiling windows, closed door offices and a shared workspace that could also be reconfigured as a classroom/learning center. There was also a lounge area and kitchenette.
Funding from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (Jumpstart received a Cutting Edge grant in 2009 some of which supported the creation of J Space beta) suported programming in the space. The “beta” in the name is important because the whole idea of what we did was a pilot for a much bigger version that we hoped to open later.
In early 2009, Jumpstart began building support in Los Angeles for a shared work and learning space for Jewish startups. At the time Jewish innovation and startups were just starting to get traction in the marketplace. There was little funding, and little interest from mainstream Jewish organizations in supporting these efforts. As colleagues we all recognized that the learning curve and costs of starting new initiatives could be ameliorated by banding together to share costs and knowledge.
Jumpstart co-founders Shawn Landres and Joshua Avedon saw that LA was becoming a locus for significant Jewish innovation, yet there was little in the way of institutional support for those new projects that were being created. Jumpstart recognized that not only did these projects and their leaders need the facilities to do their work, but also that they would benefit from being in community with each other, and to have a place to learn and share about social entrepreneurship.
Jumpstart began organizing to create J Space in 2010 and J Space beta opened in 2011. J Space beta closed in 2014 because Westfield re-developed the property. The bridge (featured in 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) still stands, but Gateway West is now part of the Century City Mall (where Eataly now is).
J Space beta was a successful experiment. The amount of support from other innovators and members of the Jewish community was extraordinary. It is true that Jumpstart did not go on to create a full-fledged J Space because that would have needed a few more years of “beta” before the necessary support was in place. More than anything, J Space beta showed how good ideas, backed by passionate and organized people, can become reality.