Ponce City Market- Redevlopment, and the Beltline
In 2011 Jamestown Properties purchased City Hall East from the city of Atlanta. The building was purchased for $27 million with Jamestown anticipating spending $180 million in the renovation. For the third time in its existence the building was rechristened, this time as Ponce City Market. Jamestown Properties planned to use the existing building to create a live, work, play community with direct access to the Beltline.
The decision to renovate this building as a mixed used development with loft style apartment space was the confluence of two major real estate trends in the City of Atlanta. Loft apartments had grown in popularity with younger professionals moving into the city since the Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts had been constructed. Various former industrial sites had been redeveloped into mixed use communities, such as Atlantic Station, which was built on the site of the old Atlantic Steel Mill and had proven to be profitable. This development uses the methods of both of these styles of redevelopment to make the old Sears building a desirable place to live work or shop while preserving some of Atlanta’s industrial past.
The goal of this redevelopment is to create a new nucleus for the Poncey Highland and Old Fourth Ward neighborhoods that bordered it. The surrounding neighborhoods, whose decline had signaled the decline of the retail portion of the Sears building had experienced gentrification over the course of 1990s and 2000s. The dangerous reputation of Ponce de Leon Avenue had begun to give way to walkable neighborhoods with coffee shops and bars.
Starting in 2011 Jamestown began renovating Ponce City Market in stages. The first business to open was Dancing Goats in 2013. In 2014 and 2015 business such as Athena Health, and Mail Chimp moved their offices into the building. Binders opened as the first retail client specializing in the sale of art supplies.
As Jamestown has carried out its renovations it has worked to restore the building in its original condition. These renovations have included refinishing acres of maple wood floors and reconstructing the rail spur that runs into the building. The rail spur will connect Ponce City Market directly into the Beltline. As the building draws new investment into the area it is yet to be seen how this new development in the long history of the Sears Building will affect the surrounding neighborhoods. Will it leave the residents of these neighborhoods feeling alienated the way the Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts creation did to the residents of Cabbagetown, or will it foster community in the manner of the Goat Farm?