Ponce City Market Guide: Why it took so long to get here
Jamestown first unveiled the rebrand of Ponce City Market in July 2011. Not long after, tentative opening dates started popping up: first in the spring of 2013, then the beginning of 2014, then the end of 2015.
What was the hold-up? First the 1926 building needed to be gutted following years of neglect. As renovations slowly took shape, Jamestown president Michael Phillips and his development team dealt with the demands of retrofitting a historic property, installing HVAC systems, refurbishing the original steel-framed windows, and adding parking to the building’s interior. Then, because of a changing housing market, they swapped condos for luxury apartments. When tech companies like Athenahealth, MailChimp, and Twitter demanded office space early in the project’s development, Phillips pivoted to meet their needs, which in turn delayed progress toward bringing PCM’s retail and restaurants online.
“It’s impossible to be on an accurate schedule in an adaptive reuse of this scale, with layers of uses all stacked through a building,” Phillips says. “Office and residential, on top of retail, with nested parking is a challenging undertaking.”
There were other issues too—including inspections. Late last year, Israeli architect and designer Tal Baum secured a 4,000-square-foot space for Bellina Alimentari Italian Market. Just as she was preparing to open this August, health inspectors ordered her to build a ceiling over her 1,500-square-foot kitchen, covering up the building’s exposed industrial aesthetic that she’d planned on incorporating into her market’s design. It was an unexpected setback that—between construction costs, payroll, and lost sales—cost her a “big” amount. (But now that Bellina is open, she says, it’s doing “great.”)
Honeysuckle Gelato, one of the first tenants to sign a lease in 2013, launched its 180-square-foot space in September, a few months later than expected. But, says cofounder Wes Jones, the frustrations faded when the scoops started.
“Once you’re open, you forget a lot of the little things that annoyed you with the project,” Jones says. “You get so anxious to open, you want it so bad, and when it does, you’re just as happy.” —Max Blau