John C. Portman, Jr., founder of AmericasMart, home to the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market, has died. The architect, real estate developer, entrepreneur, artist and altruist passed away on December 29, 2017, at the age of 93.
According to AmericasMart officials, Portman founded the initial Atlanta Merchandise Mart, now AmericasMart, in an old converted office building in 1957. He oversaw the design and development of the complex. At the time, Atlanta was abandoned in favor of the suburbs and no new construction was happening downtown.
After the initial success of AmericasMart, Portman had the opportunity to open a new, larger building a few years later. Raised in Atlanta, Portman made the decision to build the new AmericasMart downtown to encourage further development and reenergize the city. He also made sure the two eateries inside AmericasMart were open to the public.
Portman continued to expand the AmericasMart presence with the vision of revitalizing downtown Atlanta, with the development of a mixed-use complex, Peachtree Center, with office towers, retail and restaurants. The Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotel followed in 1965 as the complex’s third building.
In 1975, Portman designed and developed the Westin Peachtree Plaza, which opened as the tallest hotel in North America. He continued to develop Peachtree Center over the past 55 years and it now occupies 14 city blocks and includes approximately 21 buildings that contain 20 million square feet.
As such, AmericasMart officials stated that Portman had a dramatic impact on Atlanta’s success and growth as a major international city. As an architect and developer, he is internationally recognized for significant urban mixed-use complexes and his work in numerous cities included a diverse range of notable urban and hotel projects throughout his career, influencing city planning and development.
Given his work and contributions to Atlanta, which spanned civic, business and philanthropic investments, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young said of Portman, “there is no one who has done more for Atlanta.”
He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He is survived by his wife of 73 years, Joan Newton (Jan) Portman; his children Michael Wayne (Jody) Portman, John Calvin (Jack) Portman, III, Jeffrey Lin Portman and his wife Lisa, Jana Lee Portman Simmons and her husband Jed, Jarel Penn Portman and his wife Traylor, his siblings Glenda Portman Dodrill, Anne Portman Davis, Joy Portman Roberts and her husband Phil; eighteen grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, cousins, and other relatives and loved ones.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Office of Gift Records, Emory University, 1762 Clifton Rd. NE, Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30322. Condolences may be sent in care of Jana Portman Simmons, Portman Holdings, 303 Peachtree Center Avenue, NE, Suite 575, Atlanta, GA 30303.
A public service is planned with details to be finalized.