The Shortest Commute: Where Co-Working and Co-Living Collide

By Anne Kadet Features Dow Jones Newswires

Entrepreneur Mike Nguyen may have the world's easiest commute. Every morning, he takes the elevator down 25 floors from his lower Manhattan apartment, crosses the lobby, and rides another elevator up six floors to his office.

Continue Reading Below

Yes, his one-bedroom at WeLive, a co-living residence on Wall Street, is in the same 26-story building as his office at WeWork, a co-working space.

Mr. Nguyen takes many of his meals at Westville, Fuku or Milk Bar -- the trendy eateries on the building's ground floor. He does his laundry in the building. He goes to parties in the building. He attends movie nights in the building.

"I'm literally here probably 23 hours of the day," he says.

Many techies strive to create a life of relative simplicity and convenience so they can focus on their businesses, but Mr. Nguyen took it all the way.

"I don't have any excuse to not work," he says.

Continue Reading Below

The founder of HIALabs, a tech-focused product-design firm that employs 10 people, Mr. Nguyen says he usually works seven days a week, from 6 a.m. until midafternoon. He goes home for dinner and returns for a second shift from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. He says he sleeps about four hours a night.

Mr. Nguyen recently gave me a tour of his tiny universe, starting with his 500-square-foot rented office. WeWork provides everything his startup needs, down to the paper shredder, trash basket, and free beer on tap.

Taking the elevator up to the 25th floor, he showed me the apartment he shares with his fiancée, Beth Tran, and his Boston bulldog Spock.

With its wide-plank pine flooring and industrial feel, WeLive looks just like WeWork -- right down to the lounges where people can spin Nirvana LPs on old-school turntables.

Like his office, the apartment came furnished -- and equipped with pots, pans, books, and prints, even a flashlight. Mr. Nguyen enjoys fresh sheets, towels and maid service. There is free cappuccino in the lobby and free arcade games in the laundry room.

The building even provides a social life, with activities ranging from Pilates to community dinners.

Mr. Nguyen, who is 50, doesn't mind that he's older than the typical WeLive resident. Given his startup experience, he has plenty in common with his neighbors.

"I'm a very old millennial," he says.

When he does venture out, it is to ride his skateboard, or visit Pier 11 across the street to check on a map kiosk he designed for one of his clients, NYC Ferry.

"He will just sit on the pier for three hours with Spock and make sure the kiosk is okay," Ms. Tran says.

The rush is on to serve folks like Mr. Nguyen, who wish to dispense with their commute. Facebook, for example, is building on-campus housing for employees. Here in New York, developers looking to lure freelancers and entrepreneurs are adding shared office spaces to new condo and rental projects. A 714-unit luxury rental in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn -- named 33 Bond Street -- for example, promises to "redefine the notion of work-life balance" with HomeWork, an in-house co-working space with its own coffee bar.

WeWork, meanwhile, says only a "handful" of residents at its Wall Street location also work in the building. But roughly 15% work at one of the 41 other WeWork locations in the city, including five within walking distance of the WeLive.

"Our members can live and work wherever is most convenient for them," says Jim Woods, head of WeLive.

It is an oddly sheltered life for the adventurous Mr. Nguyen. He joined the Army out of high school, scouting the East German border during the Cold War. He also has worked as a script doctor and wild-land firefighter.

But he loves the ease of co-working and co-living. While it isn't cheap -- WeWork says office space for 10 staffers starts at $5,000 a month; a WeLive one-bedroom starts at $3,825 -- Mr. Nguyen says he can't put a dollar value on the connections he's made or the time he saves.

I was surprised, then, when he said he will be leaving WeLive at the end of the month.

"I'm used to living in a bubble, but this bubble was just much too small, " Mr. Nguyen says, noting that he has been showing up to work still wearing his gym clothes. And the only knowledge he has of the weather, some days, is from consulting the virtual assistant, Alexa.

Never fear. His new apartment, in a luxury rental building, is two blocks away, and is just as convenient. "They just opened a new market there, it's like a mini Whole Foods. I love it," Mr. Nguyen says. "Plus, they have a mini bowling ally. How can I pass up a bowling ally?"

-- anne.kadet@wsj.com

Write to Anne Kadet at Anne.Kadet@wsj.com

Entrepreneur Mike Nguyen may have the world's easiest commute. Every morning, he takes the elevator down 25 floors from his lower Manhattan apartment, crosses the lobby, and rides another elevator up six floors to his office.

Yes, his one-bedroom at WeLive, a co-living residence on Wall Street, is in the same 26-story building as his office at WeWork, a co-working space.

Mr. Nguyen takes many of his meals at Westville, Fuku or Milk Bar -- the trendy eateries on the building's ground floor. He does his laundry in the building. He goes to parties in the building. He attends movie nights in the building.

"I'm literally here probably 23 hours of the day," he says.

Many techies strive to create a life of relative simplicity and convenience so they can focus on their businesses, but Mr. Nguyen took it all the way.

"I don't have any excuse to not work," he says.

The founder of HIALabs, a tech-focused product-design firm that employs 10 people, Mr. Nguyen says he usually works seven days a week, from 6 a.m. until midafternoon. He goes home for dinner and returns for a second shift from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. He says he sleeps about four hours a night.

Mr. Nguyen recently gave me a tour of his tiny universe, starting with his 500-square-foot rented office. WeWork provides everything his startup needs, down to the paper shredder, trash basket, and free beer on tap.

Taking the elevator up to the 25th floor, he showed me the apartment he shares with his fiancée, Beth Tran, and his Boston bulldog Spock.

With its wide-plank pine flooring and industrial feel, WeLive looks just like WeWork -- right down to the lounges where people can spin Nirvana LPs on old-school turntables.

Like his office, the apartment came furnished -- and equipped with pots, pans, books, and prints, even a flashlight. Mr. Nguyen enjoys fresh sheets, towels and maid service. There is free cappuccino in the lobby and free arcade games in the laundry room.

The building even provides a social life, with activities ranging from Pilates to community dinners.

Mr. Nguyen, who is 50, doesn't mind that he's older than the typical WeLive resident. Given his startup experience, he has plenty in common with his neighbors.

"I'm a very old millennial," he says.

When he does venture out, it is to ride his skateboard, or visit Pier 11 across the street to check on a map kiosk he designed for one of his clients, NYC Ferry.

"He will just sit on the pier for three hours with Spock and make sure the kiosk is okay," Ms. Tran says.

The rush is on to serve folks like Mr. Nguyen, who wish to dispense with their commute. Facebook, for example, is building on-campus housing for employees. Here in New York, developers looking to lure freelancers and entrepreneurs are adding shared office spaces to new condo and rental projects. A 714-unit luxury rental in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn -- named 33 Bond Street -- for example, promises to "redefine the notion of work-life balance" with HomeWork, an in-house co-working space with its own coffee bar.

WeWork, meanwhile, says only a "handful" of residents at its Wall Street location also work in the building. But roughly 15% work at one of the 41 other WeWork locations in the city, including five within walking distance of the WeLive.

"Our members can live and work wherever is most convenient for them," says Jim Woods, head of WeLive.

It is an oddly sheltered life for the adventurous Mr. Nguyen. He joined the Army out of high school, scouting the East German border during the Cold War. He also has worked as a script doctor and wild-land firefighter.

But he loves the ease of co-working and co-living. While it isn't cheap -- WeWork says office space for 10 staffers starts at $5,000 a month; a WeLive one-bedroom starts at $3,825 -- Mr. Nguyen says he can't put a dollar value on the connections he's made or the time he saves.

I was surprised, then, when he said he will be leaving WeLive at the end of the month.

"I'm used to living in a bubble, but this bubble was just much too small, " Mr. Nguyen says, noting that he has been showing up to work still wearing his gym clothes. And the only knowledge he has of the weather, some days, is from consulting the virtual assistant, Alexa.

Never fear. His new apartment, in a luxury rental building, is two blocks away, and is just as convenient. "They just opened a new market there, it's like a mini Whole Foods. I love it," Mr. Nguyen says. "Plus, they have a mini bowling ally. How can I pass up a bowling ally?"

-- anne.kadet@wsj.com

Write to Anne Kadet at Anne.Kadet@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 15, 2017 10:54 ET (14:54 GMT)