Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Joi Sears headshot

This Startup Makes Living in a Tiny Room in NYC Look Dope

Words by Joi Sears

WeLive is creating a new way of living. It’s built upon community, flexibility and a fundamental belief that we’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. As we all know, the New York City real estate market is one of the most expensive in the world. With many millennials being priced out of the market, they’re desperately in search of new, innovative ideas and concepts that allow them to not only live in the way they want to live, but also look super cool while doing it.

That’s where WeLive comes in. From mailrooms and laundry rooms that double as bars and event spaces to roof decks and hot tubs, WeLive challenges traditional apartment living through physical spaces that foster meaningful relationships. The tiny rooms and communal spaces are impeccably designed to foster a sense community, while removing some of the barriers that come with high-end living.

Best known for its communal workspaces, WeLive is a concept developed by WeWork, a company that turned its trendy co-working facilities into a hipster mecca. “When we started with WeWork in 2010, we wanted to build more than beautiful, shared office spaces,” the company says on its website.

“We wanted to build a community. A place you join as an individual, 'me,' but where you become part of a greater 'we.' A place where we’re redefining success measured by personal fulfillment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst.”

WeWork, co-founded by CEO Adam Neumann and his partner, Miguel McKelvey, has a simple business model. The company rents office space from landlords wholesale, breaks them into smaller units, and subleases the units at a profit. The duo behind the company, which now has over 77 locations and more than 50,000 members, say its ultimate potential is much bigger -- and investors agree.

WeWork’s backers valued the company at $1.5 billion back in 2014, and it’s now worth over $16 billion -- making it the sixth most valuable private company, tied with Snapchat, Fast Company reports.

WeWork’s success can be greatly attributed to the power of the sharing economy. Just like choosing Uber or Lyft rather than buying a car, these new “co-living” residences are an alternative for those who value access over ownership. And these units offer access to a sexy set of perks and amenities that are unheard of in NYC for the price.

The company opened the first of its WeLive residences earlier this month at 110 Wall St. in New York City’s Financial District. Rent starts at $1,375 a month for a two-person shared studio, or $2,000 for an individual studio. Although the cost per square foot may be higher than other buildings in the neighborhood, the tiny size of the bedrooms actually makes the monthly rent lower than your average Wall Street pad.

"We’re not just going to give them the best price, which we will," CEO Adam Neumann told Fast Company. "And we’re not going to just give them flexibility, which we will. But we’re going to give them a social layer of community that has never existed before."

Although personal space is limited (the average bedroom is 450 square feet), all spaces are fully furnished and the building has a gorgeous view of the East River. The units are fitted with Murphy beds that fold into the wall to save space, and shelves are plentiful to house all personal belongings.

However, the idea is that WeLive renters won’t spend much time in their small rooms but will congregate in the communal spaces. After all, that’s what they’re really paying for. The building features a big kitchen equipped with dishes, utensils and a refrigerator stocked with all of the beer and San Pellegrino you can drink.

The building has a doorman, a laundry room with a pool table and a workout studio that can also host parties or movie nights. The $125 monthly amenities fee also includes a cleaning service and unlimited yoga classes. There are also plans to put a trendy restaurant in the lobby.

WeLive eliminates the headaches that come with finding an apartment in NYC. They don’t require a broker’s fee or proof that you make 40 times the monthly rent, a typical requirement for renting in the city. The setup also gives the option of convenient month-to-month flexibility which is perfect for those moving to the city or looking for a short-term stay. There is a full-time community concierge and a mobile app which lists ongoing events and opportunities.

Launching the company’s first co-living experiment in NYC was a bold move, but it's one that will surely pay off -- especially considering the city’s cut-throat real estate market. But Neumann and McKelvey don't plan to stop there. WeWork plans to open 68 more communal residential buildings by 2018. A building in the Washington, D.C. area is now in beta phase.

And this is just the first step. WeWork has set some ambitious goals and is already thinking of creating entire neighborhoods and even cities. "It’s a when, not an if," Neumann said of  WeCities. Perhaps the company might even be able to leverage the power of aspirational, co-minded millennials to power WeWorld.

Image credits: WeLive

Joi Sears headshotJoi Sears

Joi M. Sears is the Founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world's biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, design thinking and social innovation.

Read more stories by Joi Sears