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Inside the NYC Building That Offers Nirvana for Millennials

Apr 04, 2016

Walk into Manhattan's 110 Wall St., pass the barista slinging cappuccinos, take the elevator to the 11th floor and step out. The first thing you'll see is a wall painted with a newspaper headline cheering the anniversary of the end of Prohibition. Brightly colored doors and parked bicycles line the hallway, which leads to a dining hall, a laundromat complete with arcade games, and a bring-your-own whiskey bar.

This isn't a hotel tailored to Millennials. This is WeLive, a new "co-living" apartment building from WeWork, the New York City-based firm best known for renting office space to small companies and startups. "It's not like a normal apartment building, where you have an anonymous existence in hallways and it's only beyond the door where there are actually people's homes," says Miguel McKelvey, WeWork's chief creative officer and co-founder. "To me, it feels like this is really where people live as soon as you step in, as soon as you get off the elevator."

WeLive's premise is simple: young professionals may prefer to live among others like them—especially if that means reproducing a social experience much closer to college life. WeLive is launching to April 4 with one location in New York City and another in Arlington, Va. Investors value the privately held WeWork at about $16 billion.

The downtown Manhattan location is vaguely reminiscent of a college dorm, with all-night Halo sessions and beer pong replaced with ad-hoc career networking and caffeine-fueled brainstorming. Myriad common areas, like the "grand kitchen," are spaces for residents to cook, eat and socialize. The firm offers an app that lets residents organize parties or ask to borrow an ironing board.

Some dorm-life trappings remain: McKelvey has spotted residents roaming the common areas in their pajamas. "It's the best social atmosphere you can provide for yourself," says Tiffany Tibbot. The 26-year-old founder of swimwear brand The B. Side has been living at 110 Wall for three weeks as a handful of "betas," tasked with testing the facility like it's a new piece of software.

WeLive's apartments range from two-person studios to four-bedroom units that can sleep eight. They're small—averaging 450 sq. ft.—and some are equipped with Murphy beds to maximize space. Private rooms start at $2,000 per month. A $125 monthly fee covers cable and Internet, fitness classes, and a monthly cleaning service. That's competitive for the Financial District that surrounds 110 Wall St., but residents could find more affordable housing in the city's outer boroughs. Residents can stay for as short as a day or as long as a couple years.

The co-living concept is not for everybody. It caters especially to the young and social. Keeping the private spaces smaller helps drive residents out into the common areas where they're more likely to make new connections, a company spokesperson says. That may not appeal to tenants who tend to view their apartments as a fortress of solitude. WeLive's apartments are essentially NYC starter kits, pre-loaded with everything from furniture to travel-size shampoo. Other firms have tried and failed with similar business models.

What’s more, WeLive's Manhattan location sits atop four floors of WeWork office space, meaning one might live and work in the same building. (A spokesperson says a small number of residents in Manhattan are already doing this.) The concept will appeal to some and horrify others. "For many of us, we imagine that separation is crucial, the time for your mind to switch from one thing to another is important," says McKelvey. "And there are other people who are much more comfortable with that barrier being on a spectrum, always working or always semi-working."

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