Ponce City Market is kind of a big deal. And Jamestown, the development firm behind the former industrial building's transformation, had quite the task to convert such a massive, underutilized husk into the hotspot it is today.
Jamestown President Michael Phillips brought a slew of experience from previous adaptive-reuse developments, including Chelsea Market in Manhattan, Industry City in Brooklyn, and Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. Backed by an army of design professionals including Surber, Barber, Choate & Hertlein Architects, S9, Gensler, Stevens & Wilkinson, Lee Weintraub Associates for landscape, and Eberly & Associates, PCM became a reality.
Phillips got his start at the American University in London, and has spent the last eight years with Jamestown, alternating positions as President and COO. He chose not to answer every question we threw at him (after all, you don't get that far without keeping a few secrets). But he offered a very good glimpse into how things are shaping up as the project moves closer to completion for this week's segment of Field Note Fridays.
CURBED ATLANTA: Ponce City Market has seemed to be a major success thus far, with new developments announced in the neighborhood surrounding it. From Jamestown’s perspective, has the project achieved its goals?
MICHAEL PHILLIPS: Since construction began in 2011, Ponce City Market has been a true economic and cultural catalyst for the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. This area of town has become a hub, with numerous residential complexes, class-A office space, and retail shops and restaurants breaking ground over the last four years.
Additionally, restaurants in the Central Food Hall are performing very well and already have established strong local followings. We are proud of what we've accomplished in partnership with the city and the surrounding neighborhoods, creating a cultural touchstone for Atlanta, but at the end of the day it’s a marathon not a sprint.
CURBED: With a project the size of PCM there are likely many unforeseen hiccups along the way to implementation. What did Jamestown learn from the PCM project?
PHILLIPS: Patience, planning, and flexibility were paramount in the revitalization of Ponce City Market. One of the largest obstacles proved to be working within an existing structure, requiring our team to veer from initial plans in order to ensure the project reflected its historic roots and maintained the integrity of as many of the original features as possible.
Immersing ourselves into the community before and during the rehabilitation process allowed us to make strategic amenity-related decisions, assuring that we were in sync with the community’s needs. Parking was also a challenge as demand for parking from office tenants was greater than originally anticipated. This led to the decision to implement paid parking for all patrons to manage the finite parking within the historic structure. In turn, the parking program gave us another means of supporting our community through its donations to the Atlanta Beltline Partnership.
CURBED: It has been a long transformation of the building from City Hall East to PCM, with still more to go. When can we expect PCM to finally be complete?
PHILLIPS: The largest components of the property are complete, with the majority of restaurant, retail, resident, and office spaces occupied. We will continue welcoming a few additional retailers and restaurants throughout 2016 including Ton Ton, Botiwalla, Tap on Ponce, City Winery and Sephora.
The Roof, complete with amusement-style games and a miniature golf course, is one of the final components of the project. Putt! Putt! Putt!, a charity miniature golf tournament hosted by Plywood People and The Kyle Korver Foundation, took place on April 3 (and) marked the first official event on The Roof, with the space officially opening to the public mid-2016.
The Beltline Shed will debut in May, further connecting Ponce City Market to the Atlanta Beltline.
But at the end of the day, a good project is organic and grows and changes to meet the needs of the community. Ponce City Market will never truly be finished.
CURBED: Jamestown has been lauded for the meticulous attention to design and adaptive reuse of the space. What is the motivation for Jamestown to commit to good design, and what drove those decisions?
PHILLIPS: Design is fundamental to everything we do and the success of large adaptive-reuse projects hinges on creating spaces that will surprise and delight people. Our visitors and tenants want a space they can engage with and that will make each visit exciting. We have a rare opportunity to create incredible spaces, so we set a high standard.
CURBED: When it was announced that PCM would start charging for parking, a lot of people got upset. What was Jamestown’s rationale to the decision?
PHILLIPS: Most major cities in the world have paid parking and even Atlanta has a history of charging for Class-A office space parking. Creating a great mixed-use project requires bringing together certain aspects of different projects. With a property of this magnitude that experiences the traffic volume it does on a daily basis, our paid parking program is the most efficient and effective way to accommodate our residents, office tenants, restaurant, and retail employees, and all visitors.
From the beginning, we wanted to ensure an enjoyable experience for all guests and providing ample parking does just that. Our parking program also deters non-Ponce City Market guests from taking space away from shoppers, diners, residents, and employees.
Most importantly, the parking program allows us to further support our community through the development of the Atlanta Beltline. A portion of proceeds from each parking session is donated directly to the Beltline. The success of the parking program has allowed us to donate $100,000 to the Atlanta Beltline Partnership’s $1.1 million crowd-funding campaign, Light the Line, which will provide lighting along the Eastside Trail.
CURBED: And has there been any discernible long-term negative impact from charging for parking?
PHILLIPS: No, and in fact we are seeing people use more sustainable forms of transportation to get to and from Ponce City Market. We are proud of our support of the Beltline as well.
CURBED: Recently Jamestown’s Matt Bronfman cast a critical eye on development in Atlanta. Jamestown has the benefit of experience and capital to achieve high caliber projects. What mechanisms can be put in place to encourage smaller developers to be good stewards of design in Atlanta without being a detriment to development?
PHILLIPS: Atlanta has a long history of merchant developers. If you develop with the intent to own something, you tend to approach it from a higher standard.
CURBED: Bronfman also noted that there’s a lack of interesting opportunities in the city for Jamestown to pursue. With plenty of available land and growth still barreling ahead in Midtown and downtown, how is it fair to say there aren’t opportunities worth pursuing?
PHILLIPS: I think by interesting we mean historic fabric, large scale adaptive reuse. Atlanta does not have a large inventory of those kinds of buildings compared to other cities its size and age.
CURBED: And what can Atlantans expect to see from Jamestown in the coming years?
PHILLIPS: As we are headquartered in Atlanta and at PCM, we are staying committed to the project, ensuring that it remains an engaging community hub. We are always looking for great opportunities in Atlanta’s rich and historic neighborhoods.
CURBED: Finally, when you visit Atlanta from New York, what are your favorite places to go?
PHILLIPS: Floataway Café is still my favorite restaurant in the city. I always love La Grotta, for an Atlanta throwback.
- Field Note Fridays, the roundup [Curbed]