Friday, October 7, 2016

Living at Work

By Stephanie Allen, Project Assistant

By now, we’re all more than familiar with the “live, work, play” refrain. But, a new trend on corporate campuses gives this idea a 21st century twist—or maybe it’s more accurate to call it a 19th century twist. 

As housing becomes more and more of an obstacle to attracting the best talent in some of the nation’s major markets, corporate employers have begun to add housing to their amenity-rich campuses. Facebook’s Menlo Park campus recently added almost 400 units of housing. Presumably, many of these employees already eat at one of the campus’s eleven establishments, relax in the plaza with free beer, work out at the on-campus gym or exercise on the climbing wall. So, they already work there and play there. Why not live there?

It’s an interesting move, but it’s not a new one—not exactly. In the 19th century, the US saw a number of “company towns” pop up surrounding large, industrial operations. Think Pullman, Illinois; Hershey, Pennsylvania; Oneida, New York; Kohler, Wisconsin. Company towns provided jobs, healthcare, schools, housing, markets, libraries, and even churches. They were designed to meet practically all of the needs of their employees.

Corporate campuses already chockfull of amenities that are now adding housing seek to do much of the same. It’s another perk like ping-pong tables, onsite haircuts, and doggie daycare. As recruitment for top talent gets more and more competitive, this is just one more perk to up the ante.

It’s not just corporate campuses that are investing in this living at work concept.

There are a few private developers who are adding residential units to their office parks too. The Davis Companies will add 271 residences along with high-end food service, indoor/outdoor collaboration areas, and a fitness center to a traditional Class A master-planned office park in Burlington, MA. The nearly 60 year-old Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, which is home to more than 200 companies, is planning a new 100-acre mixed-use development in the heart of the Park with restaurants, apartments, and shopping. Bike and walking paths will connect the new development with the existing office buildings and labs. 

And, WeWork, the recognized leader in the co-working space movement, is also getting in the game. Known for their artsy, glassed-in, community-encouraging co-working spaces with month-to-month leases and as much coffee, tea, and beer as you can drink, WeWork launched a new live-work concept last year, WeLive. The first location, in New York City, has 200 residential units above seven floors of co-working space. They call it a “community-driven living concept.” You can rent co-working space downstairs and community-driven living space upstairs.

Personally, I’m not sure I’d want to live at work. But, I work from home so perhaps that’s really not so different.