Breathing new life into a symbol of Atlanta’s past

A rendering of the Atlanta BeltLine project. Photo courtesy of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. / Perkins + Will /  Field Operations. Used with permission.

Despite its reputation as a sprawling capital of the New South, Atlanta, GA is a city with a rich history and industrial legacy. Now, as part of the massive Atlanta BeltLine project, historic buildings that encapsulate the city’s past are being repurposed to meet the growing demand for walkable urbanism in the region. One such example of this type of revitalization is the Ponce City Market, which will restore the expansive Sears, Roebuck & Co. building in Atlanta.

The project is being developed by Jamestown Properties and Green Street Properties, and will bring new life to 1.1 million square feet of the old building which has been largely unused for over 20 years. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Sears, Roebuck & Co. building was built in 1926 to provide space for the company’s regional offices and a retail store. The building was expanded several times and even hosted farmer’s markets, but it closed in 1987. The city of Atlanta later purchased the building, but after renovations were delayed, sold it to a developer in 2006.

Once completed, the Ponce City Market will house a mix of retail, dining, office and residential spaces. The Market is well positioned to become a hub among its neighboring communities, and a vibrant reflection of the diversity that makes each of those neighborhoods authentic and distinct. And perhaps most importantly, the Market will improve pedestrian access points and connect to an innovative new project, the Atlanta BeltLine.

The Atlanta BeltLine is a redevelopment project circling the city along 22-miles of a former railroad corridor. The project includes parks, bicycling and walking paths, and transit. Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI), the entity tasked with planning and executing the implementation of the Atlanta BeltLine in partnership with other public and private organizations, including City of Atlanta departments, is led by LOCUS Steering Committee Member Brian Leary. As Leary stated in a recent interview with the Atlanta inTown Paper, “We’ve already made $350 million of improvements as of the end of 2011. Parts of the BeltLine are open and in use today.” According to the project website, the nearly 1,300 acres of added parkland will increase Atlanta’s greenspace by almost 40%, and the combined impact of the project is predicted to result in 30,000 new jobs.

The Ponce City Market and the Atlanta BeltLine are already underway, but the latter will be greatly affected by a new transportation referendum for the Atlanta region. Coming up on July 31st, the referendum will ask voters to approve a 1% regional sales tax increase in order to fund $8.5 billion in transportation improvements throughout the region.

If approved, this referendum will help the BeltLine project enormously. As LOCUS President Chris Leinberger recently told the Atlanta Rotary Club, fast-tracking the BeltLine is one of best ways to revitalize Atlanta. The project adds greenspace, provides more transportation options, and promotes development like the Ponce City Market.

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