Portman Holdings is moving forward with its plan to transform a seedy strip of Ponce de Leon Avenue that’s known for nightlife and decades-old bars into an upscale mixed-use destination along the Beltline.

The prominent developer entered a rezoning request this month for several properties along the well-traveled thoroughfare. The company’s plans include bulldozing blocks of beloved businesses known for their character to make way for a dense development that leverages its proximity to the Beltline and Ponce City Market.

Portman representatives showed several renderings of its Ponce & Ponce project during a recent meeting hosted by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association. The meeting capped off a series of community discussions on the potential development, which faced backlash when it was initially announced among crowds who favor the existing late-night establishments and longstanding businesses.

Portman, founded by renowned Atlanta architect and developer John Portman, has under contract land stretching from Morningside Storage to the gusto! restaurant. The land is currently home to businesses including The Local, The Bookhouse Pub, Friends on Ponce and the recently shuttered restaurant 8ARM.

Most of them will not be able to relocate to the new project, since the giant project will take multiple years to complete. MJQ Concourse, a longtime nightclub, will relocate to a yet-to-be-announced location later this year because of the development.

“You see places get developed and things change, and you hope it’s not coming to you,” Ryan Purcell, the owner of MJQ, previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A lot of the classic places that people love are just being taken away.”

A construction worker is seen repairing the sidewalk on Ponce de Leon in front of an abandoned business on Monday, January 23, 2022. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

Mike Greene, vice president of development for Portman, who is overseeing the project, repeatedly told Virginia-Highland residents and reporters that the project would only move forward if it received backing from the community. The rezoning request was described as the pivotal step that wouldn’t happen if the neighborhood rejected Portman’s pitch.

While the rezoning request has yet to appear on the City of Atlanta Department of City Planning’s website as of Monday afternoon, a Portman representative confirmed the request’s submittal earlier in January.

The dozen renderings show how Ponce & Ponce’s mid-rise towers would reach heights matching the nearby Ponce City Market and Ford Factory Lofts, some of Atlanta’s most well-known adaptive re-use projects. The current buildings, which would need to be demolished for the redevelopment, are shorter and lack the glassy architecture envisioned by Portman’s design team.

“One thing is clear and it’s that the neighborhood feels like they’re unique and they deserve something unique,” Green previously told the AJC.

Portman’s vision includes more than 350 apartments, 470,000 square feet of office space and roughly 38,000 square feet of new retail space.

The project site is bisected by Ponce de Leon Place. The east half would have a residential tower and an office and retail building, while the west site would connect to the Beltline and consist solely of shops, restaurants and offices. Parking would be underground below the buildings.

This is a preliminary site plan of Portman Holding's Ponce & Ponce project along Ponce de Leon Avenue in Virginia-Highland.

Credit: Portman Holdings

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Credit: Portman Holdings

Portman aims to begin construction in 2024. The development, which is contingent upon Portman rezoning the land by mid-2023, is targeted to open by 2026.