Business

WeWork co-founder reflects on Miami market, company vision

Leigh Sevin of Zeel, an on-demand massage company, and Frederic Prisse of Labelium, a digital marketing agency, chat in a lounge area at the WeWork co-working center on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.
Leigh Sevin of Zeel, an on-demand massage company, and Frederic Prisse of Labelium, a digital marketing agency, chat in a lounge area at the WeWork co-working center on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

As WeWork officially celebrates the opening of its first South Florida location in Miami Beach, the New York-based co-working company has already put plans into motion for several more centers in the greater Miami area.

WeWork co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Miguel McKelvey got his first look at the completed center on Lincoln Road on Wednesday, when he flew into town for launch events. In an interview in one of the WeWork conference rooms, he expounded on the WeWork vision for South Florida and globally. Co-working centers typically provide office space, communal work areas, conference rooms and community events.

WeWork’s decision to open in Miami Beach came down to the “right time and right location,” McKelvey said. The 40,000-square-foot location spanning four floors above TD Bank at Lincoln Road and Washington Avenue began opening in stages in July and has more than 500 members, said community manager Anna Prisse. At capacity, it can hold about 750.

While Miami Beach may be more synonymous with tourism than business, “we’ve attracted a really great membership who is very enthusiastic about being here,” said McKelvey, who co-founded the company with CEO Adam Neumann. For the first location, with views of the ocean from the top floor, WeWork wanted a signature location: “We don’t always want to do the most obvious thing from a brand perspective.”

Once inside, the layout is purposeful and designed for interaction, said McKelvey, a serial entrepreneur with a background in architecture. For example, he said the reception area shares space with the common area — often used for community events — a coffee bar and work spaces. “When you walk in, you can’t help but run into something happening,” he said.

Each floor has its own common area and a variety of offices and communal work areas, phone booths and conference rooms, some with tables and others with lounges. Neon signs and local artwork adorn the walls. With a passionate entrepreneurial membership of startup entrepreneurs and small businesses, freelancers and service providers, the space itself needs to respond to that kind of passion, McKelvey said. “To me, building spaces that people feel good in is crucial to what we are doing.”

WeWork plans multiple locations in the Miami area – it’s part of a wave of new spaces opening in South Florida. WeWork recently leased the historic Security Building in downtown Miami, with plans to open it early next year. The next location will be nearly 100,000 square feet, almost 2  1/2 times the size of the Miami Beach center. And because WeWork has leased the entire building, expect more engagement at the street level, with a large entrance and cafe, McKelvey said. The narrow 16-story building, built in 1926 with high ceilings, also will allow for creativity in the layout, McKelvey said.

He said besides the Security Building, WeWork is currently in talks with two other Miami area locations and also is looking into a new construction opportunity. “This is just the start,” he said, reiterating that the longer term strategy is to have at least five to seven locations, including a possible second location in Miami Beach, because a network of locations is more valuable to members. With $1 billion in venture capital backing and a track record of opening locations, WeWork now has the profile developers desire, he said.

WeWork, founded in 2010, now has more than 25,000 members at 56 locations in 17 cities around the U.S. as well as Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Its next big challenge is more international growth, including Latin America, McKelvey said. “Our motivation is to create cool spaces with cool energy; our motivation was never to grow as fast as we can.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

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