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From WeWork To WeLive: Startup Moves Members Into Its First Residential Building

The company is betting big that it can do with "coliving" what it has done with "coworking."

[Photos: courtesy of WeWork Corp.]

Coworking startup WeWork began testing its first residential offering in New York City over the weekend, a source close to the company told Fast Company.

About 80 WeWork members and employees have moved into 45 apartment units in WeWork’s first "coliving" space at 110 Wall Street, which will eventually house about 600 people on 20 floors, WeWork confirmed. Along with living accommodations, residents will have access to community events like fitness classes and potluck dinners, services like cleaning and laundry, and a digital social network—all of which can be coordinated through a mobile app.

An apartment in WeWork's first coliving location at 110 Wall Street in New York City.

"We are in the early stages of beta testing a new, community-driven living concept in New York City," a WeWork spokesperson said in a statement to Fast Company. "This concept is another layer of our platform focused on enabling people to live more fulfilling lives. During this testing phase, we’ll be listening to feedback from our community."

WeWork has bet big on applying the community experience it curates for 40,000 coworking members to housing. In an investor pitch deck that leaked in August, the company estimated that its residential offering, which at the time it called "WeLive" (the name may change), would account for 21% of its revenue—$605.9 million—by 2018. In those documents, WeWork planned that WeLive would span across 10.3 million square feet of real estate and serve 34,000 members within the next three years.

WeWork's coliving layout at 110 Wall Street, where it already runs a coworking space on the bottom seven floors, is similar to a traditional apartment building. Each of the 200 units—mostly studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments—has a private kitchen and at least one private bathroom.

Less typical for an apartment building: All units are fully furnished, decorated, and set up with cable and Internet at move-in. A monthly cleaning is included with rent (members will receive monthly bills for cable, utilities, Internet, and more frequent cleaning). Every floor has a common area such as a yoga studio or a movie theater. And the building has a community manager who will help plan Sunday-night suppers, game nights, karaoke, and fitness classes.

"Coliving" is obviously not new (see the kibbutz, the commune, the close-knit neighborhood), and WeWork is not the first to turn it into a business. Coliving startups, which typically charge rent (or "membership") on a month-by-month basis, see an opportunity to provide flexible housing for affluent millennials, who are flocking to urban areas at a higher rate than any other previous generation, even as rents in cities like New York and San Francisco hit record highs.

Common, a coliving company founded by Brad Hargreaves (who launched the trade school General Assembly), opened its first building in Brooklyn this October. Krash, which caters to a tech-focused crowd, at one point had eight locations throughout Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. Another coliving company, called Campus, shut down its 34-location coliving business in June (disclosure: I lived in a Campus location for six months).

The $788 million in venture capital funding that WeWork has raised within the past 18 months, the last round of which valued the startup at $10 billion, should give it a head start in scaling the concept to more cities and buildings. In addition to the 20 floors of coliving space WeWork will operate at 110 Wall Street, WeWork is also reportedly preparing more than 200 coliving units in Crystal City, near Washington D.C.

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