Originally built in 1897, the Flatiron Building is Atlanta’s oldest skyscraper. The iconic downtown building is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and contrary to popular belief, predates its New York counterpart by 5 years. Having seen Atlanta change drastically over the decades, the Flatiron Building recently underwent a resurgence of its own and has been transformed for the 21st Century. Opening in October, FlatironCity is a new nextgen office space with innovation at its core. So much so, its first tenant is the Microsoft Innovation Center. Looking to foster a creative work environment is FlatironCity’s Manager, Katie Ryan. We recently sat down with this Leslie Knope-esque go-getter to get the scoop on her background and her plans for the space.
Like many in the world of tech, Ryan had an adventurous path to Atlanta’s startup ecosystem. “I’ve done a little bit of everything. I went to school for sociology and always tell people that I started hustling really young,” she recalls. “While going to school full time, I worked three jobs in college and was the manager of a UPS Store at the age of 20. After college, I took the first job that was offered to me: sales for a telecommunications company and that didn’t last long. I wanted to actually do something with a social impact, which was my original intention. I started working with Gwinnett County Parks & Recreation, but I am way too high energy for government and moved way too quickly. After a while, I said to myself, ‘How can I impact people and build community, but also still make money and earn a living?’”
Soon thereafter, she joined Cushman & Wakefield to work in commercial real estate as a broker coordinator. “I was on a team with eight brokers. In that role I pulled together surveys and created marketing materials for listings. I was lucky enough to work on a diverse team that handled a range of deals, from the Falcon’s stadium land deal to finding creative office space for startups and tech companies,” continues Ryan. “My passion for creative and inspiring space was really ignited through my work with the tech and startup focused brokers at Cushman & Wakefield.”
Ryan started to work on the marketing for FlatironCity from the Cushman side and happened to meet the head of Lucror Resources (the new owner of the Flatiron building) during that process. “He said to me, ‘Hey, I think you’re really good at this. What would you say to helping me get this thing off the ground?’,” she says. “Fast forward to today and I am trying to develop a space that fosters an experience that’s creative and inspiring, but I’m also trying to tap into the community and get feedback on what that means. I want this space and its experience to be driven by the tenants in it. There are so many people out there engineering a creative space, saying, ‘Here’s what we think works for you.’ But, I’m not saying that. I’m saying, ‘Come, help me build this.’”
Within the space, Katie is working with ai3 as her designer. “They’ve done a really great job. We had a very specific plan as we wanted it to not look like any other space. Unlike other tech centered spaces, we want our space to be warm,” she states. Ryan is also working to create corporate and academic partnerships. “We have the Microsoft Innovation Center and we’re also reaching out to other large companies to put innovation centers in the building. Identifying and managing those relationships are definitely key and so is the academic side. We have a very strong partnerships with Georgia State and Georgia Tech.”
“Diversity is also so important to me because I think that so many people out there are blindly innovating. I think you need a diverse, global perspective to really be impactful in innovation in general,” continues Ryan. “We have a relationship with Morehouse and are building relationships with SCAD and Spellman as well. We want our 43,000 square foot space to be inclusive and a mix of everything.”