Everything’s a WeWork Now
Its principles have permeated traditional offices
The SaksWorks Coworking space in Greenwich, Connecticut, tucked inside what was once a Saks Fifth Avenue department store, feels like a well-appointed library where no one reads: fireplace, overstuffed couches and large potted plants. When I visited on a Monday in March, the books lining each wall—grouped by color, not theme—made an appealing backdrop for my afternoon Zoom meeting. There were a few rooms I could have booked to make a more private call, but the space was so sparsely populated that it hardly seemed necessary.
SaksWorks was something of a marriage of convenience for the retailer, which is looking to repurpose some of its real estate as in-person shopping dwindles, and WeWork, the fallen coworking giant that, until recently, managed the space. (Saks parent company Hudson’s Bay Co. has since invested heavily in Convene, a WeWork competitor that will take over.) The unlikely transformation also speaks to a peculiar consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic: These days, anywhere can be an office. And every office feels increasingly like a WeWork.
It’s a surprising turn. WeWork’s collapse is the stuff of legend—or at least of podcasts, books, a Hulu documentary, and an Apple TV+ series. The coworking pioneer had soared to a valuation of $47 billion by 2019 on the back of stylish, amenity-rich office spaces and overeager venture capital. But as the company prepared to go public that year, questions swirled about its viability. Within weeks, Adam Neumann, the charismatic cofounder responsible for much of WeWork’s mythmaking, was out as CEO, the company’s valuation dropped to $10 billion, and the IPO was put on ice.
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