A wellness-centered shared working space founded by a former WeWork executive will move into the top two floors of the former Barnes and Noble on the Third Street Promenade later this fall. The 30,000-square-foot space called ‘work well win Santa Monica’ is the first of 90 coworking spaces opening in various cities over the next five years offering perks like meditation rooms, yoga, organic food and even purified air.

“Santa Monica was super important for us to get a location because it embodies everything we are trying to achieve,” said work well win CEO Frank Bistrian in an interview with the Daily Press. Bistrian said his long commute home from New York City on the Metro-North commuter rail line inspired his idea for a more mindful workspace. “I would look around me and everybody just looked like they’d been beaten up all day and I just figured there’s got to be a better way.”

The future of the ground floor at 1201 Third Street Promenade is still up in the air but will likely require some buildout to break up the large floor area into several different spaces, according to a source with knowledge of the leasing process. The property owner is primarily looking for food and beverage concepts that would thrive where the Promenade meets busy Wilshire Boulevard.

While it may seem superfluous, Bistrian touted purified air as one of the main benefits of his new workspaces, citing a study that found office air five times more polluted than outdoor air. A 1989 EPA report found better office air quality would result in more productivity and fewer sick days for employees. The CEO hopes to fill the space with up to 400 professionals.

“We’re not as much into the tech frat type thing,” Bistrian said. “We’re targeting more of a mature audience. Both entrepreneurs and more grown-up professionals as well as large corporations.”

There are already a dozen office buildings peppered along the Promenade, with workers from about 40 companies toiling above restaurants and retail, according to data from commercial real estate analyst CoStar. Work well win is first co-working space on the street.

The company is working with Lushing Realty Advisors and DFH Architects to preserve the building’s retro exterior while adding new signage (it is not a local landmark). The design scheme for the interior is “Hygge Surf,” a nod to the beach and to a trendy Scandinavian aesthetic associated with coziness, wellness, and contentment.

“Work well win is unlike existing co-working solutions: it’s designed from the ground up with wellness holistically integrated…to improve your work day, ultimately improving your life,” said a press release from the start-up which recently announced a $22 million fundraising round from real-estate investors.

The beloved Barnes and Noble store quietly closed its doors earlier this year after more than twenty years on the Promenade. Nationally, the chain has been hit hard by the so-called “retail apocalypse” as sales have fallen for seven straight quarters with more consumers buying books with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger on the internet. The company’s CEO Demos Parneros told investors late last year new locations will be smaller and “more efficient.” A few months later, Barnes and Noble laid off cashiers across the country blaming sluggish holiday sales.

When the redesign by DFH is finished, the inside of the former bookstore will be unrecognizable.

“This space will have light blonde wood floors, cool beach blue tones, graphic statement walls, live plant walls, swing chairs, casual lounges and a surfboard rack space,” said head of design Cecilia Walker. “In addition to the design schematic, architecturally the interior will have a light-filled central atrium with rooftop skylights with an open internal staircase to promote an ‘active design’ where our members can move, walk and collaborate from floor to floor.”

The curved corners and horizontal lines of the facade are hallmarks of the streamline moderne architecture style prominent in the Los Angeles area in the late 1930’s. The building was constructed in 1935, according to Kay Pattison with the Santa Monica Conservancy. It was home to Ralph’s supermarket before the Promenade became a pedestrian mall in the 1960’s. During the recent revitalization, Barnes and Noble moved in to anchor the north end of the shopping district.


Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press