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Household Name

Jarel Portman steps out on his own to create daring dwellings.

Jarel Portman outside his Vinings home.

It seems “X” marks the spot at 280 Elizabeth Street, a development set to bring 19,000 square feet of restaurants, 39,000 square feet of boutiques and 201 coveted apartment spaces to leafy Inman Park. Vendors such as Ford Fry and MF Sushi have signed on for the site plan conceived and built by JPX Works.

“I threw the X in there to have something different besides my initials,” says founder Jarel Portman, the “JP” who does not want to coast on a famous family moniker. Yes, he is the son of legendary architect John C. Portman Jr., who helped shape Atlanta’s skyline. “I grew up learning about [his buildings and legacy], but I always perceived him as my dad,” he recalls. “Not the larger-than-life figure that others see.”

The baby of the family, Jarel worked on the dizzying towers in the Asian division of his family’s Portman Holdings before striking out on his own and getting down to earth, in every sense, with this hometown project.

Instead of his father’s signature atria, the younger Portman, 49, prioritizes green space, with parks and areas that appeal to busy, young families—a demographic he understands wholeheartedly. He and wife Traylor Howard, who played winsome sidekick Natalie Teeger on television’s Monk and Sharon Carter on Two Guys and A Girl, are bringing up four children in Atlanta.

These days he sticks closer to home. “In China, I was peeling back layers of neglect from great, old buildings,” he says, “and I wanted to take a similar approach in Inman Park to create something timeless. For me, it’s a great opportunity to express myself.”

Portman’s Hots: Inman Park; Tulum, Mexico; Ebenezer Baptist Church; Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co.; fashion by Sid Mashburn, James Perse, MoMo FaLana and Balenciaga

Portman’s Nots: Rollerskates; wearing the same Halloween costume every year; Atlanta traffic gridlock; architecture that is not user- and community-friendly