Step Inside City Labs, Boyle Height’s New Community Office for Civic Leaders

Think whiteboard conference tables and big ideas

Co-working isn’t a new concept in Los Angeles. Beautiful, unique spaces where independent contractors, start-ups, and small companies work side-by-side and share resources are all over the city.

Still, there is something very special happening in one of L.A.’s most vibrant neighborhoods, Boyle Heights. I recently attended the opening of LURN’s City Labs, a new co-working hub funded by the community-focused financial institution Genesis-LA. Not only is the space visually inspiring—with bright white walls, fun prints, and whiteboard conference tables (seriously)—but it is also utilized by local leaders who are chipping away at issues related to gentrification and economic development, like Rudy Espinoza, Tafarai Bayne, and Michelle O’Grady.

While chatting about civic innovation over delicious flautas prepared by street vendors in the converted warehouse, I was blown away by how spaces designed to bring creative people together can breathe new life into a neighborhood. We discussed how today’s Los Angeles fosters change makers who aren’t focused on just one issue for just one organization. Co-working enables that kind of collaboration driven by passion—and saves those do it from idea-crushing isolation.

Surrounded by friends from some of the city’s greatest organizations, I was reminded that, contrary to popular belief, civic engagement is still kicking in L.A.


Shauna Nep is a philanthropic advisor, an L.A. enthusiast, and a secret Canadian. You can follow her Los Angeles adventures on CityThink each week, and by following her on Instagram and Twitter @shaunanep.