Old Fourth Ward
The new East Atlanta
Until a few years ago, this swath of shotgun houses, historic sites, and neglected industrial grounds between Downtown and Inman Park lacked identity. Old-timers knew it as the Old Fourth Ward, once the bustling seat of black Atlanta and a remnant of one of the original slices of political pie centered on 1874 Five Points. (In 1954 the divisions were discarded in favor of city council districts.) But there weren’t too many of those homesteaders left; in 2000 a mere 8,600 or so residents remained—down from a high of 23,000 in 1960.
In 2007 O4W residents banded together with Kwanza Hall, the District 2 councilman who had moved to the O4W in 1999. Young skateboarders and elderly black grandparents alike pitched in on a master plan to jump-start the neighborhood, bringing in the retail, higher-density housing, greenspace, and cohesion it would need to reclaim its luster. Now important portions of that plan have come to fruition. The new Wheat Street Gardens urban farm (see page 40) is hosting Friday farmers markets. The BeltLine-connected Historic Fourth Ward Park is proving to be a linchpin attraction. And last fall the Atlanta City Council agreed to sell City Hall East to Jamestown Properties, which envisions the historic building as a mixed-use spot.
Like any area undergoing gentrification, the O4W is striving to keep affordable housing on the table while making its shaded streets and bustling patios attractive to monied movers and shakers. Still, certain strips remain pocked by prostitutes, abandoned lots, and drug deals, especially along seedy Boulevard—much like in East Atlanta, another historic neighborhood beloved for its nightlife, food, and affordable living but still plagued by quality-of-life issues. But it’s not a bad time to consider making your home in the pedestrian- and public-transit-friendly O4W. Real estate will likely only rise as the neighborhood’s eastern border, the BeltLine, blooms.
Photograph of Historic Fourth Ward Park by Christopher T. Martin