We knew WeWork was eyeing expansion in the North after it announced its first UK space outside London, in Manchester, recently. But in something of a surprise, the global shared workspace giant has just announced a second space in the city.
WeWork has signed a deal to take 40,000 square feet of space in the One St Peter’s Square development, in the same building as KPMG. Mary Finnigan, the company’s European Director of Transactions, says Manchester is a good city for further expansion as it’s a buzzy, vibrant tech and media hub.
In my report about WeWork’s first Manchester space, I questioned if this well-funded US firm (which since then has taken on a further $3 billion in investment from SoftBank as part of a $4.4 billion deal) might push local coworking spaces out of the market. With the company now taking the same multi-site strategy in Manchester that it has in cities like New York and London, that concern seems all the more real.
Finnigan played down such worries when I put them to her. A Northerner herself, from Liverpool, she spoke of how the company participates in the local tech community in a symbiotic way, and how it tailors its pricing and design aesthetic to the local market.
Still, I’m sure eyebrows will be raised in the North about a well-funded giant shaking up a local market that others thought was theirs. But that’s how these things go, and it’s a sign Manchester’s tech sector is doing something right that it attracts such outside interest.
If you look at WeWork’s overall business, you might find a clue to where it sees the most potential in a city like Manchester. As Recode recently reported, “companies with more than 1,000 employees — like Microsoft and Salesforce — now make up 20 percent of membership and 30 percent of sales.”
Finnigan says large companies take space with WeWork either as a temporary measure during expansion, or on a longer-term basis to provide an inspiring workspace for creative teams.
Targeting startups will only get you so far. By locating its Manchester spaces in the corporate environs of Spinningfields and St Peter’s Square, it seems WeWork has an eye on the city’s larger businesses too. That’s an approach that could work in other Northern cities too, and we know the company has plans to expand further in the region.
WeWork Spinningfields is due to open by the end of this year, with the St Peter’s Square space pegged to open its doors in the first half of 2018.
Image: WeWork’s London South Bank space. Credit: WeWork