New WeWork facility turns old Jehovah’s Witnesses buildings into small-biz mecca

Eye On Real Estate

December 23, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to 81 Prospect St., one of two DUMBO buildings housing a new WeWork facility. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The world is divided into two types of people — those who have offices in WeWork’s cauldrons of creativity and entrepreneurship, and those who only get to read about them.

The meteoric success of this coworking office space provider has fast become the stuff of legend in New York City real estate circles.

The Chelsea-based company, founded by former Israeli naval officer Adam Neumann and University of Oregon basketball player turned architect Miguel McKelvey, has a valuation of $10 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported in June.

The first Brooklyn WeWork location has been opening in stages, starting this past August, at 81 Prospect St. and 77 Sands St. The spaces are connected with a skybridge and function as a single facility. The rollout is expected to wrap up in January with the opening of three floors at 77 Sands.

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These are former Watchtower Bible-printing plants in a cluster of buildings Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, bought in 2013. Kushner Cos.’ and mega-landlord RFR’s $375 million, six-building deal included a hotel that houses Jehovah’s Witnesses. The complex is now called DUMBO Heights.



Free beer for tenants in the former Bible-printing plants

We’ve been eager to get inside the erstwhile Watchtower buildings, which are eye-catching, old-fashioned factories with green window frames  — and to see whether WeWork facilities are as cool as everyone says they are.

Our verdict after a recent visit: Absolutely terrific.

We saw an awesome setting for small businesses, from its jaw-dropping views — cars on the Manhattan Bridge look close enough to touch — to carefully thought-out details like a giant tic-tac-toe set and a kegerator filled with free Brooklyn Brewery lager in the seventh-floor common area at 81 Prospect.

Or the just-opened espresso bar in the sixth-floor common area at 77 Sands. Barista Steve Gorman, an entrepreneur who owns Brooklyn Cold Brew Coffee Co., will make you a $2.25 espresso.

Or phone booths, equipped with telephones and desks, for private conversations.

Glass walls that enclose neatly laid-out small offices let in sunlight all the way to corridors in the middle of the floors. Large green dots are painted on the glass to keep tenants from inadvertently walking right into it.

Dogs are allowed in the facility, which is a mood-brightener.

Our photographer colleague Rob Abruzzese came along with us on our visit. Take a look at his marvelous pictures.



Happy Hours on Thursday nights

WeWork rented all the office space at 81 Prospect — 90,000 square-feet — and also took 72,000 square feet in 77 Sands. Each space has about 900 desks for tenants.

The rent WeWork is paying at 81 Prospect is more than $50 per square foot per year, the Daily News reported.

By the way, at WeWork the tenants are referred to as members, and there are community-building activities like Thursday-night Happy Hours in the common areas.

Tenants rent space by the month. In DUMBO, a dedicated desk is $450 per month. Glassed-in private offices are built for companies of one to 100 people; prices vary. The largest space we saw on our visit had about 30 seats.

For the occasional use of workspace or a conference room, there are memberships for as little as $45 per month. See wework.com for details.

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