Gentrification’s impact on Ponce

Cameli’s Pizza off Ponce will close this April, confirming owner’s fears that new development is negatively affecting area

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Cameli’s Pizza off Ponce de Leon Avenue will be closing its doors this April, culminating owner George Cameli’s fears that new development is negatively affecting business and culture along Ponce.In an email to Creative Loafing, Jason Neubert, who handles marketing and communications for Cameli, directly expressed this fear. “George is concerned about keeping the roots of Ponce intact … he wants to ensure mainstays ... are as much of a piece of the new fabric of the area as the new faces and development.” Unfortunately, this is often not the case, as Cameli now knows all too well.According to the email: “The redevelopment of the Kroger on Ponce has made the parking situation at Cameli’s unbearable and sales have declined sharply since construction began just after the Kroger closed for business on October 29, 2016. … Although Cameli’s has the right to extend its lease for another five-year term, doing so would be unsustainable considering the condition of the property and the negative impact the redevelopment has had for the business.”Steven Horwitz, owner of the Ponce-based breakfast spot Java Jive, stoically acknowledged that this is nothing new. “Developers want their ventures to be successful, so they charge higher rent. Small operators suffer the brunt of that because they can’t take it. The people that can afford the rent are chains, so you water down the area, and it makes for a less-interesting community. The character, the uniqueness, the flavor of the area is lost because you can find it again another five miles down the road.” Despite all of this, Cameli remains optimistic. The Cameli’s Pizza location in Little Five Points will remain open, commenting that he’ll “miss those weirdos on Ponce, but at least I still have the local weirdos at our L5P location to make us feel at home.”