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Trees installed on a 725 Ponce commons area, overlooking the Beltline’s Eastside Trail.
Trees installed on a 725 Ponce commons area, overlooking the Beltline’s Eastside Trail.

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Behind the fences at 725 Ponce, which is embracing the Beltline like nothing before

The 12-story complex of concrete is rerouting the Eastside Trail for an immersive pedestrian experience

Contractors have been giving Jim Irwin a lot of cockeyed, confused glances of late.

“You say you want to expose the concrete?” they might ask. “That’s usually the first thing you cover up.”

But Irwin, president of developer New City, is aiming beyond the restrictive glass boxes of recent Atlanta high-rise buildings with his 725 Ponce project, which recently topped out at 12 stories where so-called Murder Kroger once stood.

Some 42,000 cubic yards of concrete have been poured, and the structure now stands 177 feet over the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail (soon to be straddling it). The resulting look of rough concrete and steel is meant to be an homage to grittier, industrial landmarks next door, Ford Factory Lofts and Ponce City Market.

“There are a couple of guys out here who are concrete artists,” says Irwin. “They’ll literally be touching every square inch to make sure it’s perfect.”

For this installment of Visual Journeys, we caught up with Irwin for a look behind the fences at a mixed-use project that stands out—for its height in Poncey-Highland, architectural ambitions, and embracement of Atlanta’s most popular Beltline segment.

A familiar scene recently at the project’s entrance.
The Kroger portion of 725 Ponce will actually occupy a second floor, as the space to the right will be underground parking. The grocer will be accessed by stairs and escalators.
Window installation at Kroger nears completion. A 56-foot hole was dug to bury four levels of parking beneath the building. Developers plan to hand Kroger the keys for interior work by month’s end.
This public plaza of “epic scale” is designed to feel like an extension of the Beltline, Irwin says.
Massive tree planters with attached benches and other “people places” will provide a respite for Beltline patrons.
Renderings courtesy of New City; renderings and project design by S9 Architecture

By November, expect to see concrete being poured for a Beltline path (above) that will utilize an existing bridge over North Avenue, rerouting the trail between two pillars and beneath the office building. The existing trail, at right, will be removed, and New City will install grass and plantings. The new path should be open by year’s end.

“You can assure everybody we won't ever close the Beltline,” Irwin notes, adding that keeping both paths would have created a danger for “1,000 collisions.”

The 1914 bridge, designed to carry the weight of trains delivering parts to the Ford factory, required almost no rehab work.

“It’s just as strong as the day it was built,” says Irwin.

Plans for separated Beltline paths that would converge near the building have been changed since this rendering.
All office workers and visitors will pass through these areas, which will house the restaurant and other spaces.
A floor above the Beltline, plans call for a public common area.
A lobby adjacent to the restaurant.
And this common lounging space.
The view from Ponce City Market’s Shed.
A green roof of grass and flowers (and several bee hives) will be installed atop Kroger, next to the public rooftop space.
Future shower stalls for bike commuters. This is the women’s locker room.
Raw space for offices.
Marble-clad walls in an office bathroom.

The project’s second phase will consume the parking lot in the distance (seen above), near Green’s Beverages on Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Irwin expects work to launch there when the current build is finished. “Honestly, it could be anything,” he says, though a phase-two tower would max out at roughly half the current building’s size, with retail at the base.

Growing companies interested in 725 Ponce’s first phase have expressed interest in reserving space in the next flank for future employees.

A look at the backside and rooftop of the recently finished Hotel Clermont from the ninth floor.
A three-story outdoor space provides an open-air social area for office workers and an architectural focal point, as illustrated in the below rendering.
A downtown view across Old Fourth Ward.
Exposed steel staircases that allow workers on the top four floors to access the eighth-floor outdoor patio are meant to add architecture interest and industrial-style grittiness.
The view of Midtown across Ponce City Market, the behemoth adaptive-reuse project Irwin led for six years as senior vice president of Jamestown Properties.
Development has made a commercial canyon of this Beltline segment, with much more planned in coming years.
The project’s base, girded by fences for now.

Five stories forming the rectangular glass feature (above) will have mechanical shades that can be closed to form what’s essentially a huge screen for projecting movies and commissioned art pieces.

Its inaugural showing is planned for March when the building opens, Irwin says, and it’ll light up for special occasions thereafter.

“It’s not a billboard,” says Irwin. “It’s intended for community enhancement.”

Construction of 725 Ponce is scheduled to wrap in March, followed by buildout for what Irwin expects to be between four and 15 office tenants. Kroger hopes to open in late spring or early summer next year.

As for the restaurant space, Irwin says interest has been strong and that he’s “getting close” to inking a deal with a “very specific tenant,” his mum excitement bordering on giddiness.

“It’s going to be great,” he says.

Midtown and extended Beltline views from the 12th floor.
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