Ponce de Leon Avenue is an Atlanta institution. Its route starts at the Downtown Connector and changes character many times before morphing into Stone Mountain's Main Street outside I-285. By far the most interesting stretch is between Peachtree Street and Moreland Avenue. It's a surreal experience, where Whole Foods meets streetwalker, and landmarks like Mary Mac's Tearoom seem frozen in time. The communities on either side of Ponce have seen their landscapes evolve with gentrification and newcomers, but much of the strip has resisted large scale change for decades. That could soon change with the development of Ponce City Market.
Jamestown Properties will be developing the hulking 1926 Sears, Roebuck & Co. building into a tantalizing mix of unique retailer and restaurants, loft offices, a "nationally relevant" food hall, organic gardens, and eventually residential space. They've got more than enough space to work with; 2,000,000 SF to be exact. No wonder part of the interior will be utilized for parking!
What's more, the Sears building is sited right next to the much anticipated Beltline project, putting it within an easy walk or bike ride of Altanta's most desirable neighborhoods. Hopes are high for the project, as Jamestown was previously involved with the development of Atlanta's White Provision and Manhattan's Chelsea Market. Both projects combine respectful historic renovations with fresh and exciting tenants, and there's no need to think the same formula won't work here.
The neighborhoods surrounding Ponce, such as Midtown, Old Fourth Ward, and Virginia Highland, are full of households that will embrace this kind of development. And who doesn't love an organic frisée salad in the comfort of a greenly renovated industrial setting? Although currently many home seekers don't desire to live closer to Ponce than necessary, Ponce City Market could change that. Walking/biking distance to this development could become an amenity in itself.
So will this project be a catalyst for further redevelopment of Ponce? There's no doubt it's bringing renewed interest to this storied corridor, and developers tend to have a bandwagon mentality. But based on past predictions of gentrification magic (witness the hype that surrounded the development of the Ford Factory in the 1980s and Midtown Place in 2000), I'm hesitant to say this will be the shot in the arm that cures Ponce. There's a lot more than real estate development affecting the state of PDL, namely homelessness, drugs, and prostitution. My guess is that even though City Market is destined to be a smashing success and a huge improvement of that particular area, Ponce will stay funky for years to come.