Phil Ryan ’04 Is Building Better Cities

photo of phil ryanReportedly, the architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen said, “When you look at a city, it’s like reading the hopes, aspirations, and pride of everyone who built it.” Phil Ryan ’04 is making an impressive career by understanding and transmuting this sentiment to others. 

As the Director of City Futures and Global Insight for the commercial real estate giant JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle), it is Ryan’s job to maintain expertise in urban planning, the future of built areas, suburbia, architecture, life and community in and around cities, urban sustainability, nature, art, creativity, and transportation to name a few. He synthesizes this knowledge into actionable strategies for real estate sales and leasing, property management, project management, and development.

When he graduated sixth grade from Oak Knoll’s Lower School in 2004, he was too young to have career aspirations, but he’d already demonstrated a strong talent for location and geography. He was a state finalist in the annual National Geographic Geography Bee. 

“I was always a creative kid,” said Ryan, who attended Pingry after Oak Knoll. “My parents chose Oak Knoll because they wanted a smaller class size to support that creativity.”

“I can still vividly remember attending Oak Knoll. It’s funny how, all those years later, you can still picture yourself back in elementary school. Oak Knoll was very welcoming. We all knew each other,” remembered Ryan.

Ryan’s love of art, geography, languages, and travel, along with a natural-born curiosity, would eventually lead him to a B.A. in Geography with a concentration in urban planning and development from George Washington University and a year abroad studying city, urban, community, and regional planning at the prestigious London School of Economics.

Oak Knoll nurtured Ryan’s curiosity, as did his secondary schooling and university, which equipped him so well for his present position. “Perhaps it’s a combination of my schooling and upbringing, but I just like being in places where there’s the opportunity to absorb knowledge and learn. I always have respect for teachers who appreciate that,” he shared. 

In a sense, he is also a teacher, as he synthesizes his widening understanding of built spaces and translates that understanding into information that benefits his clients and the international real estate development industry as a whole. He is frequently called upon to comment on issues for industry outlets such as Bloomberg, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

“I do a lot of presentations, speaking events, and panels,” he related, “Really just the whole gamut of things related to the built environment, but particularly from a real estate perspective. What uses do I include in my development? How do I scale it? What types of locations work? How can I back up my investment thesis as a developer?” Many of Ryan’s clients are allocating billions in development funds, and he is there to assist them in distributing those funds to intelligent, sustainable, community-enriching projects in cities and suburbs worldwide.

Based with the City Futures Division of JLL in London now, he works for a global leader in redesigning spaces and creating large-scale, mixed-use communities that integrate with public transit infrastructure and positively impact human interaction, climate, and the environment. 

So, who knows? When you next walk through a well-integrated development in a city center in Canada, France, Netherlands, Australia, Japan, Singapore, or Hong Kong, you may very well be witnessing some of the hopes, aspirations, and pride of Oak Knoll’s very own Phil Ryan ’04, whose insight helped to build it.

four alumnae posing for picturestudents at podium