The sleek modern apartments at 131 Ponce de Leon Avenue welcomed their first resident on Aug. 1, following more than 18 months of site work and construction two blocks from the Fox Theater. Now three and a half months later, a check on the building's website indicates there are 50 units still available for rent. While the building looks swank and offers lots of amenities — lounge complete with pool table, courtyards with fireplaces, pet grooming areas, etc. — the prices put it on the very upper edge of the neighborhood. Surrounded by many other fairly new apartment options, it's not that surprising that Greystar — the same folks behind other new projects like Crescent Terminus, Elan Lindbergh and The Flats at Ponce City Market apartments — has had some trouble filling the 280 units in the building.
From the street, the building looks good and is appropriately scaled to the neighborhood and the church which it shares the block with; it's by far not the ugliest spec apartment to be thrown up in this latest rental boom. The building is anchored at the corner of Ponce de Leon and Juniper Street by a two-story glass and marble box. That box is the sole surviving vestige of internationally renowned architect I.M. Pei's first completed building, opened four decades before his famous glass pyramid entry at the Louvre in Paris. The sleek minimalist building, which took cues from noted Modernist Mies van de Rohe, was demolished despite outcry from preservationists, in 2012. The façade of the front bay of the building was re-erected as the leasing office entrance to the building, surmounted by a pool and rooftop deck at the corner, commanding views up Ponce.
The available units, one and two-bedroom options, range in price from $1,230 to $3,378. The studio (call it a "one bedroom" all you want, but if you don't see a door, it's a studio) available for $1,230 is only 560 square feet; at more than $2 per square foot, the prices far outpace the building's direct competition, but with the amenities and newness factor, they're more comparable to some new towers in Midtown. However, unlike the towers, 131 Ponce can't compete with high-rise views. Also, while the area is quickly becoming desirable, it still remains a bit grungy around the edges. But the neighborhood, on the border of Midtown and downtown, is booming, with Emory erecting their Proton Therapy Center, slated for completion in 2016, across the street from the apartments. Over time, the area should grow into the price range, but at the moment it seems a bit forced.
As the year draws to a close, it'll be interesting to see if 131 Ponce fills the remaining units, or if the prices are just a bit too optimistic in a pocket of Midtown that has yet to fully come into its own.