Brooklyn Boro

Williamsburg’s WeWork facility will open in February

Eye On Real Estate: And other B'KLYN-related tidbits from company co-founder Miguel McKelvey

December 23, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Overhead light fixtures reflect the front desk associates at DUMBO's WeWork facility, which should be completely open in January. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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Home Sweet Home.

Coworking office space kings Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey are back in DUMBO, big-time.

Their Chelsea-based company WeWork, which has 65 announced locations in 18 cities in four countries, is rolling out a 162,000-square-foot facility in DUMBO at 81 Prospect St. and 77 Sands St. It should be completely open in January.

Their business partnership began in DUMBO with Green Desk, a shared office business they created with the help of landlord Joshua Guttman, who bought them out in 2009. Before that, McKelvey had worked as an architect at DUMBO’s Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture (JPDA).

“I think for both of us, having started there, there is some nostalgia,” Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer McKelvey said in an interview. “It’s fun to come back to Brooklyn.

“And it’s a great thing for us to support what’s happening in Brooklyn with startups and entrepreneurs. To reconnect with all this creativity is really awesome.”

He expects the DUMBO facility to reach full occupancy in the spring.

Its location in the Kushner Cos.’ DUMBO Heights redevelopment project is somewhat isolated from the rest of the neighborhood by a highway entrance, a bridge underpass and a dead end.

“The fact that it’s under construction is part of the challenge,” McKelvey said. “When the retail is built out, it will balance some of these circulation challenges. There will be places to go right downstairs — you won’t have to walk five blocks for lunch.”

WeWork’s next Brooklyn location is expected to open in February: The 510-desk first phase of its 240 Bedford Ave. facility. It’s in the Billyburg building where a Whole Foods is opening, which will be a great tenant amenity, he said.

This is sarcastically nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” he’s talking about, right?

“It’s hard to complain about the food offerings,” he said. “For busy people working hard, it’s great to have a quick place to get healthy food as a snack — regardless of what people’s philosophical arguments about its pricing may be.”

The second phase of the Williamsburg WeWork hasn’t been designed yet so the number of desks it will have hasn’t been decided.

As the Brooklyn Eagle has reported, WeWork has leased nearly 77,000 square feet at 195 Montague St. in Brooklyn Heights and will serve as the 222,000-square-foot anchor tenant of a planned Brooklyn Navy Yard building called Dock 72.

How many other Brooklyn locations does WeWork plan to add in the next three to five years? we asked.

WeWork doesn’t set target numbers for individual markets, McKelvey said.

“We’re opportunistic,” he explained. “We want to find great buildings our members will love. We’ll keep looking for them around the world.”

(WeWork refers to its tenants as members.)

What about the pressures of handling investors’ financial expectations for his company, which has a $10 billion valuation, the Wall Street Journal reported last summer?

“The pressure we put on ourselves to deliver a great product for our members is 10 times greater than what we feel in trying to satisfy investors’ expectations,” McKelvey said.

He has a 5-year-old child.

“Building a Lego set with my son for a couple hours is a total escape,” McKelvey said. “He doesn’t care about valuation or anything else.”

A personal note: McKelvey is on WeWork’s basketball team, which is in a league that plays all over the city. He was on the University of Oregon’s b-ball team. Isn’t he a much better player than his colleagues?

“We have 24-year-olds with fresh legs,” he said modestly. “I use old-man tricks to play.” He’s 41.

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