By Jodi Lox Mansbach
What is it about Ponce City Market that fascinates me and so many others?
For the past three years, I’ve been privileged to work as a part of the development team responsible for the building’s transformation. As an urban planner and a dedicated intown Atlanta resident, I have found that this project is the culmination of many things that I have wished for since I moved to Atlanta in 1996 and my family bought a house in Morningside.
I have always believed in Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods — Virginia-Highland, Midtown, Druid Hills, Inman Park and the Old Fourth Ward, to name a few. These neighborhoods are experiencing a resurgence as residents are drawn to an urban environment. I feel blessed to live where my kids can walk to school, where I can bike to work, and where it’s possible, though not always easy, to not use our car all weekend.
For too long, the vacant and obsolete Sears warehouse, renamed City Hall East, towered over the neighborhood but was not a part of it. Today, Ponce City Market has been knitted back into the fabric of the community with its direct connection to the BeltLine and at the nexus of so many great intown neighborhoods.
Secondly, I believe that preserving and reusing an existing structure — something Atlanta is not known for — can be not only a statement of sustainability, but also one of authenticity.
Authenticity is not something you can create. It is cultivated when the developer respects the structure and retains key historic elements, but more than architecture and design give the building authenticity.
In the past three years I have never led tours through Ponce City Market and not had some people share stories about how the building meant something to them, whether they or a parent or grandparent got a first job there or whether they remember coming to the store for new shoes or a hat. These stories would live on as pure nostalgia, but each time I see amazement in the eyes of the storyteller that the locus of this memory is now something present, relevant and real.
What does this mean to Jewish Atlanta? We should be proud that the building is a testament to the business acumen of Julius Rosenwald, the noted Jewish philanthropist who led Sears, Roebuck in the years leading up to the expansion of the company and the building of the Atlanta distribution center, along with several other gargantuan regional distribution centers.
Second, we should celebrate the many stores and restaurants owned and operated by members of our Jewish community. Check out Binders and Karoo and food establishments Farm to Ladle and Marrakesh, all owned by creative and visionary members of our Jewish community.
And we should acknowledge that with the resurgence of intown neighborhoods, there is significant growth in the intown Jewish community, a community that does not wish to isolate itself as much as be a part of the fully vibrant happenings around town, including Ponce City Market.
I look forward to running into many of you at Ponce City Market and celebrating our many communities together.
Jodi Lox Mansbach is the vice president of development and construction for Jamestown, developer of Ponce City Market.