Sprawling Atlanta is looking leaner these days, with dense development packing the city’s urban neighborhoods along a linear park known as the Atlanta BeltLine. The 2.3-mile-long eastside segment of park built on a century-old rail line that circles the city has attracted a dense mix of development on what was historically low-density industrial land, mixing art and recreation with what is becoming a viable car-free alternative to the city’s sprawling suburbs. Atlanta-based Jamestown Properties is betting big on the city’s regeneration with one of the country’s largest adaptive reuse projects, Ponce City Market (PCM), converting a 1926 Sears, Roebuck & Co. warehouse into a tech-driven mixed-use development anchored by a 350,000-square-foot food hall and retail market with 1,000 feet of frontage on the BeltLine.
PCM comes with a pedigree. Jamestown owns the wildly successful Chelsea Market in Manhattan and its 100,000-square-foot food hall that has attracted companies like the Food Network and Major League Baseball to the project’s office space. PCM is similarly sized to its Chelsea counterpart, containing 1.1 million net rentable square feet, with 340 apartments and 500,000 square feet of office space supporting the market.
Jamestown knows that food markets are a major development driver. “It’s all about what allows companies to attract and retain the best workforce, and how you feel integrated and connected to the community,” Jamestown President Michael Phillips told AN. That approach is paying off with tech company MailChimp signing up for a headquarters in about 20 percent of the building’s office space. Phillips said PCM’s amenity-rich, design-forward approach to class-A offices is a first for adaptive reuse projects in Atlanta. “It was very important for us to use multiple architecture firms to create a diversity of thought and execution around the design,” said Phillips.
Still, PCM is serious about food. “We’ve learned that a great food hall has to remain committed to raw food for people cooking meals, not just cooked food that you buy and can take away,” said Phillips. “You have to be able to make a meal out of it, which is something we really adhered to at Chelsea Market. A butcher, a fishmonger, a cheese monger, a vegetable seller, those are all really important aspects of a food hall.”
A double-height, vaulted food hall will contain a mix of tenants offering raw and prepared food. Jamestown designs its markets to support entrepreneurship, embracing both established tenants and startups in food trucks or carts. At the center of the building, a large courtyard with a direct connection to the BeltLine, creates multiple front doors to the building. “It has an elevated rail spur that cuts through the building and into the courtyard that gives the feeling of the BeltLine extending into the project,” said Phillips. Amusements and restaurants are planned for the roof. “If you look at that nesting of uses and how they all interact, it was important for us to have these opportunities for overlook and engagement,” said Phillips. “There’s a variety of moments where interventions into the building allow for an introduction to the public.”
Jamestown catalogued and collected almost 5,000 industrial artifacts that will be used throughout the building. “We intentionally designed the spaces in such a way that they celebrate the history and also the juxtaposition of new architecture against it,” said Phillips.
The project has been slowly opening this fall with select retailers and residents moving in. Jamestown expects the food hall and retail to fully open in the spring of 2015 with the rooftop to follow in the coming year.
“In some respects, we’re the finishing touch on the neighborhood,” said Phillips. “But in other respects, the neighborhood will continue to renew and renovate. It’s not unlike what has happened with the High Line, which has been a catalyst for a lot of development on the West Side of Chelsea,” said Phillips. “As Atlanta fills out, I think the area around the BeltLine as a whole will continue to densify. In cities that are as energized as Atlanta, neighborhoods have to continue to renew themselves all the time.”