Public Works: Communal Living for the Young Professional
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Public Works: Communal Living for the Young Professional

Modeled after shared office spaces, communal living space offers the young professional everything they are too busy to get for themselves.

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

A lounge at WeWork’s Wall Street location, now testing communal living space. Courtesy WeWork.

There’s a plucky New York-based startup called WeWork that, since 2010, has rented communal office space and work stations to other plucky startups in an ever-growing number of cities around the world.

It’s a neat idea, but not necessarily unique. Here in Toronto, the Centre for Social Innovation has been working pretty much the same beat for over a decade.

But now WeWork is adding communal residences to its roster of rentable spaces. Fast Company, a business, media, and design industry publication, reported on January 11 that around 80 WeWork employees and clients had moved into a 45-unit communal living section of the existing company space on Wall Street. It’s a test, WeWork confirmed to Fast Company, of a “community-driven living concept.”

The model seems to be one that’s less about a dozen people crammed into a few bedrooms, and more about young people in creative industries living in private residences but sharing amenities, services, recreation facilities, and even meals, with immediate neighbours.

Reporting on another proposed WeWork communal living space, this one near Washington DC, the Wall Street Journal said sources likened it to “a dorm for Millenials in their 20s.”

And that’s what seems strange about this. It’s Wall Street, after all. This is the home of slick yuppie business people. Are they really going to want to live in a furnished bachelor apartment and take potluck meals with their neighbours?

Well, it could all be a real step up for those in the startup game. As BuzzFeed pointed out in a piece on the growing co-living trend among young professionals, a large proportion of the demographic work from home in tiny cramped apartments and rarely get out to see any part of the outside world.

The communal living situation allows the perpetually busy to have all the essentials taken care of for them, and available right outside their door. No need to shop for furniture, find a gym, network, or make friends. It’s all right there just down the hall from your bed.

Is it everyone’s idea of good living? No, probably not. But for the thousands of people in New York, Toronto, all over the place, with a very slanted work-life balance in need of a small place to hit the pillow between sessions at the grindstone, it’s not a bad solution.