Can you hear me now? Verizon joins co-working craze

140 West Street location in Manhattan operated by Grind

140 West Street and the co-working space Grind
140 West Street and the co-working space Grind

Would you like to buy a co-working desk with that cable package? Telecommunications firm Verizon opened its first shared office space at 140 West Street in Manhattan earlier this year and plans to open similar spaces in Boston, Washington D.C. and London.

Unlike WeWork [TRDataCustom], which has to rent office space from landlords, Verizon actually owns plenty of office buildings in neighborhoods popular with yuppies. At 140 West Street, for example, Verizon owns the lower 10 floors (it sold the top portion to developer Ben Shaoul, who is converting them into condos).

Does that mean WeWork has to worry about a serious corporate rival emerging? Probably not. Verizon — which has been negotiating to acquire Yahoo for $4.8 billion — sees its co-working venture mainly as a neat way to use excess space and get “engaged in the [tech] community to see what’s going on,” according to John Vazquez, the firm’s head of real estate. And it isn’t even managing the space — co-working provider Grind is taking care of that, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Still, Verizon’s example shows that major corporations are becoming more comfortable with the concept of co-working. Firms like KPMG and Microsoft have bought WeWork memberships for their employees.  Meanwhile, Amazon offers free co-working spaces to promote its cloud-computing products. Earlier this year, Cadillac opened a co-working space in the ground floor of its Manhattan headquarters. The space also includes a coffee shop and art exhibits.

Telecom firm Sprint opened a tech accelerator in Kansas City. “There are a lot of smart people who are trying to figure out how to disrupt my industry,” Sprint’s vice president Kevin McGinnis told the Journal. “I need to be closer to them.” [WSJ]Konrad Putzier