Decatur Next

Place on Ponce Opens

Long pursued project leads the pack in new, downtown rental housing

Initially sidelined with the onset of 2008’s housing crash, the Place on Ponce ultimately resurfaced with 234 one, two, and three bedroom apartment rentals along Decatur’s main thoroughfare. Like other downtown residential projects, it received no tax incentives or similar subsidies.

The project, which also features a modest amount of street-fronting retail, contributes to a variety of city goals — the conversion of surface parking lots to more productive economic use; the creation of uninterrupted retail along W. Ponce de Leon Avenue; and the desire to accommodate the bulk of the city’s residential growth via density in key transit-served areas.

Concerns arose due to the project’s proximity to a traditional residential neighborhood, including frontage on a street facing single family homes. This put the focus firmly on the physical restrictions necessary to ease transitions between higher intensity commercial and lower density detached residential, and compelled the Zoning Task Force’s codification of a height limiting 45 degree plane to mitigate the effects. In short, upper floors must now step back in such instances to limit building mass along the sidewalk.

Ultimately, the project contributed to what may be the most diverse and economically productive 9 acres in Decatur, offering single and multi-family homes, both owned and rented; offices; a variety of restaurant and retail uses; and providing for roughly 500 residents and over 400 jobs at all income levels, all on a single neighborhood block.

Bringing multiple goals together

Though this project, like similar projects coming online, is new construction with commensurate market-rate rents, it still plays an important role in longer-term affordability strategies. Steadily increasing demand for in-town living continues to exert pressure on communities like Decatur that now comprise the third fastest-growing metro area in the nation. By increasing supply for those seeking rentals in prime Decatur locations, these new apartments help reduce market pressure, and thus price escalation, on our more limited inventory of older, less costly second-tier units.

Building an active population of downtown residents has been a city priority since development of 1982’s community-driven Town Center Plan. In practice, such developments (either condo or for-rent) have been net-positive contributors to local tax revenue, paying notably more than they take out in city services and associated infrastructure, including schools. Such residents, drawn by a walkable, car-lite or car-free lifestyle, further contribute to the health of our downtown businesses, both independent and chain, providing for a wider variety of offerings and experiences for locals and visitors alike.

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