WeWork’s latest Manchester location at Dalton Place is already nearing capacity according to the company’s UK general manager, although the coworking operator remains tightlipped over its next likely venues in the city.
Last week WeWork launched its third Manchester location at Tesco Pension Fund’s refurbished Dalton Place, with the 66,000 sq ft building nearly full. Place North West met with Mathieu Proust, WeWork’s UK & Ireland general manager, at the Dalton launch, as the company also celebrated its 50,000th UK member.
Other WeWorks in Manchester include 40,000 sq ft in No1 St Peter’s Square, and 60,000 sq ft in No1 Spinningfields. The company has confirmed its fourth location as Boultbee Brooks’ 51,000 sq ft Hyphen, and is operating the 91,000 sq ft Hanover House in Noma on behalf of Amazon, which has leased the entirety of the building from Hermes.
WeWork has been prolific in Manchester in recent years and more venues are likely, with the company looking at various buildings across the city with around 50,000 sq ft available, including One Spinningfields Square, recently vacated by RBS.
No fresh deals are understood to have reached the contract stage yet. Proust declined to comment on potential locations, but stressed “we love Manchester, and we’re committed to Manchester. It’s going well, it’s the first city outside London we opened in.”
When asked about whether WeWork would be appearing in other North West cities such as Liverpool or Chester, Proust reasserted that expanding in Manchester was a higher priority than opening in other cities currently without a WeWork presence.
“We need scale to create a meaningful community and have that network effect.
“We already have our next wave of cities we’ll be opening in next year, in Cambridge and in Edinburgh. Others such as Liverpool in the future, we’ll see.”
Many remain sceptical about the role of flexible spaces and coworking in the traditional office market; whether occupiers are really keen to network and learn from one another and if operators such as WeWork simply provide glorified hotdesks and serviced suites.
Proust refuted this: “Everything we do is designed to make people feel happier. With each WeWork we learn more, and get smarter about how they’re designed.
“People don’t really want to move between buildings, for instance Spinningfields people want to stay in Spinningfields. But we see people move for the services; the printing, meeting rooms, conferences, yoga, events we put out through our app.
“Across all of our members, 60% have said they are doing work of some kind with each other.” Research commissioned by WeWork suggested that 57% of WeWork members in Manchester say WeWork has helped their company accelerate its growth, and 71% did not work in Manchester prior to joining WeWork,
As WeWork gears up for its first IPO, the $47bn company has also hit headlines over its billions of dollars of lease obligations and high levels of debt, which has turned off some landlords from letting the brand space. Each WeWork location is let to a special purpose vehicle, reducing the risk to the parent company but providing little assurance to a building owner should the coworking bubble burst.
However Proust was confident that WeWork was here to stay.
“It’s the future of work,” he insisted.
“WeWork is in it for the long run. Real estate is the hardware, and WeWork is the software, it’s what people enjoy.
“People love it, it’s not going anywhere, and it’s needed by big and small companies alike. There’s a need for community, that’s needed everywhere. There’s a deep change in society, and we’re at the forefront of that and that raises questions.”
WeWork’s impact on the office market was now unstoppable, according to Proust. “Your office building will look like WeWork in the next few years,” he predicted.