Jim Irwin is knee-deep in one of the most exciting projects in Atlanta real estate: the transformation of the historic City Hall East on Ponce de Leon Avenue into a mixed-use facility. When finished in two years, the in-town building – once a Sears warehouse and distribution center – will feature more than 1 million square feet of office, retail and residential space.
Irwin is vice president, development, at Green Street Properties – a Hartman Simons client – and is leading the effort to redevelop the property. Green Street is a subsidiary of Jamestown Properties, which recently purchased the building from the city of Atlanta. We recently caught up with Irwin and asked – you guessed it – four questions about his firm, its projects and his hobbies.
HS: Your most high-profile project in Atlanta is the Ponce City Market project. What’s the current timeline for development of the facility, and how will the space be divided up when it’s finished?
Irwin: We are slated to open in the spring of 2014. Construction began last October. The first phase has largely been one of demolition, and will last a total of about six months. We will begin demolishing the old parking deck by the beginning of February.
We are not removing any historic structures, but there are a lot of layers to remove to get to the original structure.
These are rough numbers at this point, but the final building will have about 300,000 square feet of retail, 400,000 square feet of Class-A office space and 200 apartments, and maybe a boutique hotel. All under one roof.
There’s really no other project like it in the market. There’s a dearth of loft Class-A office space in Atlanta. The building still has the original hardwood floors from the 1920s and all the associated character, but will be combined with all of the modern conveniences of a new office building.
HS: Explain Green Street’s development philosophy. Is the Ponce City Market project indicative of the kind of projects your firm undertakes?
Irwin: It is. We focus on urban infill projects located in historic, character-driven buildings. Another recent example in Atlanta is the Westside Provision District, a 110,000-square-foot, mixed-use project that we developed out of an old meatpacking plant on Atlanta’s West Side. The development features retail, fine dining and high-end residential units.
Also, sustainability is a fundamental part of what we do. Our development projects are part of the live-work-play movement, and our consulting team offers a range of LEED, Energy Star and overall energy efficiency services for both new and existing buildings.
Ponce City Market’s proximity to the Beltline is huge for the project and is an example of the way that our projects incorporate accessibility to rail, biking trails, etc.
HS: What demographics are most responsive to your projects?
Irwin: They particularly resonate with the “creative class.” But we’re finding companies of all stripes are interested in office space in these live-work-play environments. They are becoming very savvy about employee satisfaction and retention, and they know that their employees want to be in authentic places, buildings that have a lot of character and are unique.
People – whether it’s residents, office workers, shoppers – they want to be in places that aren’t sterile.
HS: How do you like to spend your free time?
Irwin: I like to spend time with my two sons: Drew, age 2, and James, age 4. I enjoy coaching them in sports. I also enjoy four-season gardening and have been fascinated lately with beekeeping.