Two pieces of breaking news from WeWork this week: Miguel McKelvey, the architectural designer who co-founded the company in 2010 with Adam and Rebekah Neumann, will leave at the end of the month, while WeLive, the company’s co-living venture, is reportedly on the rocks.
McKelvey broke the news in an Instagram post on June 5 that also referenced the Black Lives Matter protests still ongoing around the world, and shouted out to WeWork employees still with the company. McKelvey, who was still serving as WeWork’s chief culture officer at the time of his departure and was the only remaining cofounder, is often credited as the design mind behind the coworking company’s initial ride, as he helped outfit their original offices and establish the precedent WeWork would carry into the future. He ultimately grew to direct architecture and construction, although WeWork branched out to nab outside big-name designers during the company’s ascent.
Of course, that was back before the botched IPO that sent WeWork’s valuation plummeting from a high of $47 billion to the $3 billion it sits at today. And, as the company continues to pare back the extraneous investments—including shuttering its education arm, WeGrow, and selling off its investment in The Wing in January—WeLive, the WeCompany’s co-living initiative, might be next.
Co-living isn’t a new concept (pay above-market rates to rent a fully-furnished room in a building with communal amenities), but WeWork had invested heavily in the concept with the idea of ultimately developing combination WeWork/WeLive buildings. WeWorkers could come downstairs from their WeLive units, drop off their children at WeGrow, attend gym classes at Rise By We, bank with the speculative WeCompany financial institution… you get the idea. Last October, the WeCompany scrapped a 36-story combination WeWork/WeLive tower planned for Seattle. Now, Bloomberg reports that the company is looking to hand over its WeLive outfit in Crystal City, Virginia, (where Amazon is slated to drop its HQ2), as well as the Wall Street WeLive in Manhattan.
Of course, if the WeCompany does divest of WeLive, the fault might lie in the housing model itself; co-living quarters are typically more expensive than market-rate housing, offer less space and privacy, and are often seen as ‘starter apartments’ for mobile professionals.