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A look inside Downtown's FlatironCity

February 10,2016

www.bizjournals.com

A new entrepreneurship hub in a 120-year-old downtown Atlanta landmark is changing how people work.

Renovations are nearly complete at the historic 11-story Flatiron building — Atlanta’s first “skyscraper.” It was completed in 1897 at Peachtree and Broad streets near near Woodruff Park.

Called FlatironCity, the 40,000-square-foot building is becoming a collaborative workspace that’s a far cry from the gray walls and drab cubicles of a traditional office tower.

“It’s got a different energy. It’s alive. It’s dynamic,” said one tenant in the building, Thomas P. Ventulett, co-founder and CEO of Aegex Technologies. He’s also the son of the renowned Atlanta architect Tom Ventulett of tvsdesign.

The project marks a continued shift toward shared office space, meant to spark the creative spirit and foster big ideas from startups and freelancers. Flatiron draws some similarities to WeWork, a New York-based provider of loft office space that’s now launching in Buckhead.

WeWork co-founder McKelvey was quoted in Bloomberg last year as saying: “All these buildings that we look at, towers which are full of these soul-crushing acoustic ceilings, and crappy gray carpets, and draining environments with fluorescent lights ...no one wants to work that way anymore. … It has nothing to with the economy. It has nothing to do with anything other than humanity.”

FlatironCity echoes what McKelvey believes. It offers its tenants a plethora of amenities, from fridges stocked with Wild Heaven beer to the latest technology — from a 2-gigabit dedicated fiber optic line, 3D printer, to Microsoft Surface Hubs, large touch-screen computers for conference calls, brainstorming sessions and more.

It also will soon house Atlanta’s only HoloLens, a technology from Microsoft that brings high-definition holograms to life.

“I think our amenities go above and beyond,” said Flatiron City Manager Katie Ryan, formerly a brokerage coordinator for Cushman & Wakefield.

The ground floor will be open to the public and includes three concepts from Figo Pasta including Italian pasta, soup and sandwich, and coffee bars. Those should open around April or May.

The first floor also boasts a Microsoft Innovation Center, which aims to be the living room of the building. It will host workshops for entrepreneurs in partnership with PASTE Magazine, and weekly CEO conversations through Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC).

“We want people to feel like it’s their home,” said Arun Nijhawan, managing principal for Lucror Resources. “I want people to feel like they own this building.”

A real estate fund led by Nijhawan bought Flatiron in 2014, paying $2 million, according to Fulton County records.

Renovations kicked off in early 2015.

“The whole building was basically falling apart,” he said. “We started to see what it could become. We looked at how office space is used, and we knew we wanted a place where people would be talking and interacting about their ideas.”

The renovation continues to unfold. Today, the building is about 50 percent leased. Its tenants include iFusion, Project Locker, TEDx Peachtree, Boardwalk Consulting, Preston Atteberry and Aegex Technology.

The city of Atlanta also is bringing its Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) to the 11th floor of Flatiron. When it opens in next month or so, it will house 15 women-founded companies.

Unlike traditional office landlords, FlatironCity gives its tenants more options to expand and contract depending on their needs.

“We always ask our tenants to give us their ideas, and we will evolve with them,” Nijhawan said.