In the early 2000s, Church bar proprietor and artist Grant Henry ran an antique shop from a small building on Ponce de Leon Avenue. Rent then was just $600 a month.
Monthly rent remained that cheap after Henry left the building and it became an art gallery curated by the owners of Mother, a bar on Sweet Auburn’s Edgewood Avenue.
Fast forward a few years, and Henry is now best known as the founder and owner of another Edgewood Avenue watering hole, Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, as well as a sibling bar in Athens.
The days of cheap rent back where his antique store used to be, however, seem to be over.
Just west of Ponce City Market, 423 Ponce de Leon Avenue, a four-unit block surrounded by, among other businesses, an IHOP, Taco Bell, and Cook Out, recently hit the market for a cool $2 million.
Although there aren’t any pending plans to raze Henry’s old location and other buildings on the property, the listing agent told Curbed Atlanta that, with real estate that prime, new development is likely to take over soon.
“There are no current plans to either demolish or renovate the building, but it is priced with the assumption that a buyer will do one or the other after closing,” said Susan Fuller.
What that means for the remaining businesses, such as the alterations shop and shoe repair business that used to sandwich Henry’s antique store, remains to be seen.
“I wish I had $2 million, because I would buy that damn thing and keep my alteration shop right there,” said Henry. “I’d continue to take my shoes to the shoe shop; I’d continue to get strange, vintage items from Darlene at Scarlett Loves Retro.”
Even though Ponce is booming, with developments like PCM’s adaptive-reuse success and the upcoming “Murder Kroger” replacement mixed-use complex nearby, Henry said few people appreciate the corridor for what it truly is: “The ironic underbelly of Atlanta.”
“It should be the center of commerce, as it’s the main corridor that splits the city,” he said. “Ponce always seemed more important, and special, to me than anyone ever gave it credit for.”
The buildings at 432 Ponce, at the corner of Charles Allen Drive, were built in the 1940s and ’50s, and the possibility that they could be demolished isn’t necessarily an anomaly in the evolving area.
This past spring, a century-old mansion in the 300 block of Ponce was listed for more than $4.6 million.
Called the Big House on Ponce, it was marketed as a “rare investment opportunity,” thanks to zoning that’s “ideal for investors and builders to develop stack flight condos, townhomes, or mixed-use with retail on the main [floor] and [residential] above,” according to the listing.
And in Poncey-Highland, JPMorgan Chase Bank recently bought the circa-1913 Barnett Building on Ponce, which stands between a Rite Aid and Moe’s Southwest Grill.
Earlier this year, the Barnett Building was slated to fall for a walk-up bank branch, but a city-back historic designation aims to preserve it.