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Introducing: Ponce City Market

Former City Hall East, sold for $27 million

The many keys to the mammoth City Hall East building on Ponce de Leon Avenue have changed hands again.

The site’s next chapter: Ponce City Market, a “vibrant urban centerpiece,” with business, retail and residential components.

Jamestown Properties bought the property for $27 million and plans to spend another $180 million adapting the structure and its 16-acre parcel — about 2 million square feet in all — to create about 1 million square feet of retail, office and residential components, plus parking, green spaces and more.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced the sale to Atlanta’s Jamestown Properties in a press conference Monday on the 10th-floor rooftop of the gigantic brick building. 

With the “world-class amenities” that are expected for this site, Reed said that Ponce City Market “will bring $1 billion in positive economic development over the next 10 years.”

This is billed as “the most comprehensive adaptive reuse project” in city history, but you won’t be shopping or dining there in the immediate future.

Ponce City Market is expected to open in phases, starting in early 2014.

About 300,000 square feet of retail space will occupy the first two levels of the old brick building. Developers aim for a strategic tenant mix of national retailers, local businesses, chef-driven restaurant concepts and a food hall highlighting Atlanta restaurateurs and regional foods. Up to 500,000 square feet of office space is planned, with “impressive city views.” Residential space will include loft-style condos and several hundred multi-family residences — some for sale, some for rent.

The property at 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. originally rose in 1926 as a Sears Roebuck & Co. store and a Sears distribution center for the entire Southeast. It was utilized by Sears for six decades, into the 1980s. The city of Atlanta bought “the largest brick building in the Southeast” in 1991, but only used a small percentage of the 16-acre site that rests between Ponce de Leon and North avenues. The site serves as a magnificent buffer between the Midtown Place Shopping Center (Home Depot, Whole Foods, etc.), and the northern edge of the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.

It’s been a flurry of milestones for Mayor Reed in recent weeks. He dedicated Historic Fourth Ward Park three weeks ago.

Last week he announced (slated for Sept. 24 in Piedmont Park), and now comes the announcement of Ponce City Market, which planners say will be a premier destination for Atlanta, much like Pike Place Market is for Seattle, like Chelsea Market is for New York City, and like Warehouse Row is for Chattanooga. (Jamestown, a 25-year-old real estate and management company, handled development for both Chelsea Market and Warehouse Row, as well as for White Provision in Atlanta’s West Midtown area).

“This is an exciting moment,” said City Councilman Aaron Watson. “Fortunately, we have the chance to see a million square feet reused in a great way. It’s incredible for the city of Atlanta.” A number of project leaders mentioned that the big old landmark building is an ideal location for Ponce City Market because it is situated along the Atlanta Beltline corridor. A fact sheet makes note of the “perfectly positioned” location at "the crossroads of Midtown, Inman Park, Poncey Highland, Old Fourth Ward and Virginia Highland.”

Brian P. McGowan, the new president and CEO of the Atlanta Development Authority, said he felt “like a kid in a candy store” Monday.

“This means jobs revenue and new economic opportunity for Atlanta,” he said.

McGowan also had high praise for Mayor Reed.

“This deal could not have happened without the leadership and drive of Kasim Reed,” he said

Matt M. Bronfman, managing director for Jamestown Properties, also commended the mayor.

“This would not have happened without Mayor Reed’s vision, intelligent leadership and perseverance,” he said.

Bronfman added that Jamestown and its “sister” company (or subsidiary) Green Street Properties (a “green consulting and development firm focused on building mixed-use, sustainable urban communities”) consider themselves to be “stewards of this property. We plan to restore it to its original glory.”

The just-announced plan has been in the works for many years, Bronfman said.

The first phase of construction will be the elimination of the parking deck on the west side of the property on Glen Iris Drive. Developers plan to incorporate parking into the property’s interior as opposed to going with adjacent parking decks. About 2,000 parking spaces are on the drawing boards for Ponce City Market.

Plenty of details are still being worked out and no “anchor” tenants such as major retailers or restaurants have been announced at this time.

But a couple of small details emerged Monday. For example, the old exhibition hall in the center of the property is to be converted to an organic garden.

Katharine Kelley, president and CEO of Green Street Properties, also said that organic gardens could sprout up on the 6-8 acres of rooftop space. These rooftop gardens could be used by restaurants on the property.

“This is just one idea we’re incubating,” Kelley said.

She called Ponce City Market “a legacy project and opportunity for Jamestown and Green Street.”

According to a fact sheet, the redevelopment is to focus on “preservation of the building’s original character, environmental sustainability, and connectivity to the community.”

The big challege, said Kelley, is to achieve the ideal balance between preserving history and progressive redesign.”

Want to poke about the old Sears building before it gets spiffed up?

A concert and fundraiser is being planned for October 1, and that’s when you will get to explore. The Indigo Girls and Shawn Mullins are already lined up to perform.

Keep tabs on the plans at the Ponce City Market website

Connect with Virginia-Highland Patch on Facebook and on Twitter at @VaHiPatch. Get Patch in your inbox.

K Joseph July 12, 2011 at 02:05 PM
This is great news!

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