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Developer: ‘gentrification’ necessary for Atlanta’s future growth, education, arts scene

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CEO behind Ponce City Market shares surely controversial opinion about how the “bad word” can help boost cities

Montage of images of Ponce City Market and the Flats at Ponce City Market.
Ponce City Market—the epicenter of Atlanta’s gentrification?
Jamestown Properties

Gentrification is a nebulous word that gets a pretty bad rap. In many cases, justifiably so.

It’s defined by Merriam-Webster as “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.” And the concept has been heatedly discussed in Atlanta for many years as a persistent wave of new people has established roots in formerly downtrodden intown neighborhoods—a process that shows few signs of slowing.

Now, the developer behind one of Atlanta’s most popular and successful intown renewal projects is speaking out about the importance of gentrification, while acknowledging that it’s a touchy subject.

The Atlanta Jewish Times reports that Matt Bronfman, CEO of Jamestown—the developer of Ponce City Market—recently addressed a gathering of Atlantans, noting that gentrification leads to an improved tax base and facets of city life that everyone covets. His comments in full, per the newspaper:

“People throw out gentrification like it’s a bad word, and that is an oversimplification ... You want to have some degree of gentrification because you need to improve your tax base and support public services like arts, education, and parks. So some degree of gentrification is absolutely necessary if you are going to be part of a successful city.”

The same area, a couple of years later.
Google Maps

Obviously, all of those things (education, arts, etc.) are pretty great—and important for Atlanta’s future.

But displacement of longtime residents is a concern, as affordable housing disappears. Bronfman acknowledged the negative impact of rising prices and suggested that affordability and diversity are also vital pieces of Atlanta’s future.

He pointed to the allocation of 20 percent of Ponce City Market’s residential units as “affordable housing,” and encouraged other developments along the Beltline to follow suit.

Bronfman’s assessment of gentrification may differ that of other Atlantans who’ve spoken out against displacement in recent years, but is there a happy medium?