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Posted: 2017-10-25 14:13:50

The $20 billion startup just bought a giant department store in New York. Pixie dust? Or the future of work?

We have been writing about coworking for a long time on TreeHugger. We originally saw it as part of the sharing economy, where you rented a desk and the equipment that you need when you need it. Ten years ago we quoted a definition: "It's like this: start with a shared office and add cafe culture, which is the opposite of most modern cafes." Another writer wrote: "Co-working as a whole is generally defined by four major values: collaboration, openness, community and sustainability."

Lord and Taylor© Department Store Museum

How things have changed. Coworking has evolved into WeWork, described in the Wall Street Journal as one of the world's richest startups. And now it has bought the historic Lord and Taylor department store on Fifth Avenue as its headquarters, as well as the top two floors of the Hudson's Bay Store in Toronto.

It is the intersection of the rise of WeWork and the decline of the traditional department store. Richard Baker, who owns both stores, says, "I think we are in a moment of absolute transition. All of us have to spend our time thinking about how to reinvent, how to reactivate, and how to win.” According to Marc Bain in Quartz:

Baker also noted that WeWork appeals to a young demographic, which could help it revitalize its customer base in the locations where it has WeWork offices. “We will drive all of those millennial customers through all of our entrances in the middle of the store, and create a tremendous amount of excitement and interest in our retail locations,” he said.

Washington Wework© Mandel Ngan/ Getty Images/ inside Washington WeWork

WeWork markets itself as coworking, claiming it "transforms buildings into beautiful, collaborative workspaces. Get the space, community, and services you need to make a life, not just a living." And there is no question that it has done a great job of revitalizing old warehouse and office buildings and, no doubt, will do the same with

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