Photo by Laurian Ghinitoiu courtesy of WeWork
Following a failed IPO and an impending takeover by Japanese parent company SoftBank amid an exodus of investors, office space sublease and coworking brand leader WeWork informed parents that the 2019-2020 school year would be the last for the newly-launched Manhattan elementary school, HuffPost reports. Rebekah Neumann, the co-founder of the company and wife of its recently-ousted CEO, Adam Neumann (and first cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow), had helmed the educational program for children ages three to nine, titled WeGrow, with a focus on education through play and interaction. The small New York City private school opened in 2018 with a tuition bill of between $22,000 and $42,000 a year. On the curriculum were yoga, dance and martial arts and weekly trips to an upstate farm to learn how to plant and harvest crops–in addition to fundamental courses, all with a heavy emphasis on creative expression and immersion in nature.
WeWork burst on the scene in 2010 and quickly became the most recognizable brand in coworking. Their main business, renting office space then subleasing it to tenants wanting custom-designed workspaces, had grown exponentially, enabling the company to become the largest private office tenant in Manhattan–with a $47 billion valuation.
Known for having their finger on the pulse of millennials’ work habits and need for ad-hoc office space–and for the hubris of its founders, who frequently spoke of their intent to change the world–while raking in investments like the $10.5 billion total infusion from SoftBank–WeWork branched out into childhood education in 2018.
Buzzy starchitect Bjarke Ingels was tapped to design the school’s first location, as 6sqft previously reported, which opened in Chelsea last September with open-plan classrooms, multi-functional furniture and lots of natural light. By its second year, the school had reportedly grown its enrollment to about 100. One parent was quoted as saying, “Parents and administrators are exploring all options to keep WeGrow open.”
It looks likely, though, that parents whose children were enrolled in the program will have to find a new school. The company said in a statement: “As part of the company’s efforts to focus on its core business, WeWork has informed the families of WeGrow students that we will not operate WeGrow after this school year. WeWork and the families of WeGrow students are engaging in discussions with interested parties regarding plans for WeGrow for the following school year.”
Also in the hubris-fueled lofty goals fallen flat category are the company’s WeLive co-living apartments aimed at young professionals in search of affordable housing. That concept, as 6sqft reported, was “focused on enabling people to live more fulfilling lives,” by creating a communal living space for hard-working millennials.
Each floor would offer a community space for activities like yoga and movies; a “community manager” would plan activities like weekly dinners, game nights, and fitness classes. New York was the proverbial guinea pig in the venture, led by 45 units in a Wall Street building, joining companies like Common, Krash and Campus in the communal apartment space.
But WeLive has yet to expand beyond its first two locations and efforts to open international sites have failed, the New York Times reports. And New York City has investigated whether the Lower Manhattan building’s units, legally intended to be long-term apartments, were being advertised as hotel rooms.
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Neighborhoods : Chelsea