The Water Cooler: Coworking and Collaboration for Dallas Nonprofits and Funders

Story by Mary Martin. Renderings courtesy of Lyda Hill Philanthropies/GFF Architects.

The team at Lyda Hill Philanthropies is known for keeping their eyes on the future. Their penchant for listening well and planning ahead for community needs continues to pay off, especially in the areas of science, empowering nonprofit organizations, and improving communities through social impact. The latest Lyda Hill project, Water Cooler, is designed to foster collaboration across nonprofit organizations, nonprofit service providers, and funders.

Water Cooler will be a key component of Pegasus Park, a 23-acre, mixed-use office campus recently unveiled to bolster local biotech, social impact, and corporate innovation. Located at Stemmons Freeway and Commonwealth Drive, the iconic office building is being developed in partnership with J. Small Investments. Approximately 150,000 square feet of the 18-story tower will be dedicated to house nonprofit sector tenants.

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Some of the first organizations to set up shop include Commit Partnership, The Dallas Foundation, The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, United to Learn and Uplift Education. “We have been working and talking with the founding organizations for several years, learning the nonprofit perspective and what they need in this kind of space,” says Margaret Black, Director at LH Capital Inc. / Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “One of the driving factors is talent attraction and retention in the nonprofit sector. Our nonprofit colleagues deserve a state-of-the-art environment as they work tirelessly to solve some of our world’s biggest challenges. Having spent so much time investing in nonprofit capacity and infrastructure, we believe cutting-edge facilities and space designed for collaboration are key ingredients to accelerate impact.”

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As part of Pegasus Park, Water Cooler tenants will enjoy high-end amenities like a fitness center and 16,000-square-foot Convene conference center, along with plenty of parking, access to catering services, a local craft brewery with a beer garden, and on-site café.

The access to amenities will help to attract talent, but access to funders like Dallas Foundation and the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation (DRK Foundation) will help to sustain nonprofits who are facing a fundraising world that has shifted due to COVID-19. DRK Foundation has partnered with Lyda Hill Philanthropies on past projects like the Lone Star Prize, but now they are setting up a permanent home in Dallas, ready to make investments for community good and social change. 

“When you think about the key ingredients of having a key impact in the world, in so many ways Dallas embodies those characteristics which is a deep commitment to collaboration, equity, and making a difference for others and we are delighted that this step is consistent with our work elsewhere,” says Jim Bildner, CEO at DRK Foundation. “Having a footprint in Dallas for us, signifies our commitment to stay, and our commitment to Lyda Hill as a partner.”

Typically launching a co-working space in a decade that began with the pandemic-led work from home movement would fray a developer’s nerves, but the team at Lyda Hill Philanthropies is looking past COVID-19 and seeing what the community will need into the next decade. “We are thankful to have this project teed up. Of course we can think about air filtration and surfaces to be cleaned in the short term, but if there was ever a time to boost nonprofit resiliency, it’s now. Nonprofits are rethinking their fund allocation during this tough time, but it is also a fortuitous time for the entire sector,” says Margaret. “This project is not only about the near term. We are looking out over the next 10 to 20 years in Dallas.”

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And as the pandemic has affected not only where we work, but the very work itself, foundations and community forward organizations are stepping up as problem solvers for long-standing service gaps. “Pandemics reveal all of the existing social inequity, and we have a rare moment as a state and as a country, to address these issues once and for all, and in a systemic way,” says Jim. “This is not passive work. This is not a time for philanthropy to be a passive funder, but an active funder, not a time to take a back seat, but a time to dive forward and commit to the outcome.”

Opening in early 2021, the Water Cooler is now open for applications from nonprofits of all sizes who champion social causes of all types, with move-in dates between 2021 and 2023. The application window closes at the end of August. Programming will begin in 2021 with a dedicated staff person looking for ways to bring nonprofits together through mission-driven activities, as well as reducing business redundancies potentially through shared technology and employee benefits. “We’ve long believed that bringing together diverse, best-in-class nonprofits is a first step in fostering collaboration and ingenuity,” says founder Lyda Hill, who has committed to donate the entirety of her estate to charity. “And as we face these unprecedented and exceptionally challenging times, never has it been more important for people to solve problems together.”

If you are interested in learning more about Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the Water Cooler, you can visit

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