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November 14, 2019 | By Angela De Luca
Part space, part program, part community resource; on the uCity Square campus and beyond, “Quorum” means a lot of things to a lot of people.
Eight years ago, the Science Center set out to bring people and ideas together, through a space that provided educational, cutting edge content- such as our signature programming like Smart Talk, Lunch for Hungry Minds, and Coffee & Capital- as well as a free, open resource to facilitate networking, remote work, studying and important connections.
In our new home, at 3675 Market Street, that legacy continues in juxtaposing spaces to fit two distinct purposes; a Drop-In lounge on the first floor, and a second floor offering a variety of closed spaces, reservable for meetings and events.
On the day the new Quorum Drop-In lounge officially opened to the public on January 14th, promotional notepads peppered on every table read, “Innovation has its place,” but there is space here for so much more.
Over 20,000 people have walked through Quorum’s doors in one capacity or another this year alone, and according to our Quorum Concierge, Jake Ritzheimer, that number has expanded weekly since the introduction of community-facing events in the lounge. Through an 8th birthday celebration, biannual health fairs, blood drives, seasonal celebrations, office hours and more, word is spreading, and he is now seeing 300-400 additional guests per month utilizing the space.
We sat down with Jake for a look into a day in the life of the team that pulls it all off so seamlessly, allowing him the occasional break to stop and assist guests at an event in the largest room on the 2nd floor, because as we later learn, you have to be ready to assist at any given moment.
Who’s utilizing the Drop-In lounge on a day-to-day basis, and how?
JR: Definitely students; there are consistent study groups of the same students, around the same time, claiming the same spot at the high-top table! I’ve seen job interviews take place, a lot of phone calls that seem important, day traders getting their coffee and playing the stock market… Occasionally you see some artistic talent; we’ve had people sketching and one guest, an actress, run through her lines and monologue. And a lot of times it’s remote workers local to us who find the space more appealing than their own office. I’m sure it also helps to have some time away from office distractions to be able to concentrate and get work done.
As the concierge, you’re sort of looked at as the “gate-keeper.” Is that difficult to balance when you operate in a space that’s open to all?
JR: This is a public space, so it’s here for everyone but it can be a bit complicated at times; overwhelmingly, people are respectful and kind but there are occasionally times where you have to instill order if someone is getting maybe a little too comfortable or being disruptive. We see close to 70 people in here per day, and it’s always a mix of new and returning guests. If I see someone several times, I’ll say “whats’up” and introduce myself, offer to help with anything, and let them know I’m here as a resource. I also manage our Quorum social media, and curate and manage events that we organize in the Drop-In lounge.
We’ve referred to the Quorum team as “The Dream Team.” Tell us what you guys do.
JR: Well first, this can be a very physical job. We do room resets. Chris, our Quorum porter, can do up to 2-3 a day on his own, but sometimes we are “all-hands-on-deck.” He’s great with letting us know what’s possible and not possible in a certain space. I’d say we all have a few bruises and battle scars from turning rooms over and rearranging them for the next event. I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving extra tee shirts around because you can work up a sweat!
Džana is our event coordinator. She’s on the front line, in constant contact with clients and caterers before, during and after an event. She’s a good decision-maker in terms of “finding ways to say ‘yes,’” juggling requests and moment-to-moment needs.
Lynette leads our team, she’s also big on decision-making and client relations, and she’s kind of the mastermind behind much of our Quorum signature programming. She’s full of ideas and I take a lot of my cues from her, in terms of putting events together every month. It's been eye-opening experiencing the behind-the-scenes of event management, and it's kind of mind-blowing how much goes on without our attendees realizing it.
The upside is that each day is different and unique, and I get to interact with so many people. I like to keep the space activated through the writable wall by creating art and messages. We have a community table where people leave pamphlets about their organizations, a lending library which is basically a box where people can take, return and donate books, and an affirmation jar filled with written positive affirmations that people can read and leave for others. Through these welcoming items, we really hope to create a sense of positivity within individuals that can spread to others.
What were some of the most memorable events you’ve put on in the Drop-In lounge this year?
JR: Most recently, our Venture Café team hosted a Venture Café After Hours with Glbl Vllg, a CIC client located in our building. It was incredible to see the lounge transformed in that way in such a short period of time, and it really inspires you to think about all the possibilities of the space. There were easily over 200 people in attendance, and it was just a jam session, giant community party, and good vibes for everyone.
Over the summer, we curated and hosted a Community Health and Wellness Fair. We went into the planning with the intent of doing things a little differently than what you might find at a typical wellness event. We had a VR set-up which was fitness-based, therapy dogs from Paws, a CBD table which was a first for us, and Tincture-making with the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. We were able to offer a lot of the traditional services on top of that, like blood pressure screening, fall prevention, safety measures and nutritional counseling with Wellness Coaches - who now actually hold regular monthly office hours in Quorum!
How is Quorum living up to its original mission of connection and convening?
JR: Before this job, I never really went into a public space expecting to come out of it with any real value other than getting to use the location. There are a lot of public spaces in any city, like parks or community centers, but there's something truly unique about providing a place where people feel like they are making genuine connections. We promote Quorum as a place of building connection and community, and when people are made aware of that, I believe they come in with a sense of openness and a more natural inclination to get to know someone new.
After our summer party here in the lounge, a young man approached me with some general questions about Quorum. I learned more about his personal story; he had gone to school, gotten off track at some point as many of us do, and was now ready to go back. It just so happened that I had just been speaking with someone who works for a local college, specifically working on increasing positive outcomes and graduation rates for African American men. I was able to introduce them, and they sat down and continued to talk for at least 20 minutes without me. It was such an amazing turn of events that through Quorum, he found exactly the person he needed to talk to!
Why is Quorum necessary for our ecosystem?
I believe public spaces in general are important and fundamental to the health and harmony of communities. In big cities especially, you can be surrounded by many people but not necessarily feel that you have a way of connecting with them. When we feel comfortable outside of our homes, we feel at home in the world. Geographically speaking, you might be here to study, work, meet up or connect with your neighbors; but through this wonderful mix of students, entrepreneurs, individuals from all walks of life and industries, and innovators, you’re bound to find someone who can provide support, insight or inspiration.