Old Fourth Ward Atlanta: What It’s Like to Live Here

If you love the energy of a diverse neighborhood, it's hard to beat Old Fourth Ward, where history meets urban renewal with a touch of the arts.
Old Fourth Ward, Ponce City Market

Old Fourth Ward, Ponce City Market

The conversion of the Sears Building to Ponce City Market in Old Fourth Ward was one of Atlanta's most anticipated projects.

By: Gina Hannah

Steeped in history, Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward neighborhood is a place where old and new merge to create a thriving, diverse community on the city's east side.

Bounded on the west by Interstate 75, and surrounded by some of Atlanta's other trendy neighborhoods, Old Fourth Ward, commonly known as O4W, is a National Historic Landmark  known for its role in African-American History. Here is where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was born and raised and began his preaching career.  The neighborhood is also the birthplace of Morris Brown College and Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University). The neighborhood is also home to the Sweet Auburn Historic District, where the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is located.

Old Fourth Ward experienced a decline after King's death, but during the past several years it has experienced a renaissance, with the emergence of dozens of retail stores and restaurants, beautifully restored historic homes, new condominiums, loft apartments and a burgeoning artistic community. Today, the neighborhood is a favorite of people from diverse backgrounds, particularly young professionals, who want to live where they can experience a feeling of community with a good dose of nightlife and the arts.

Residents here will find space to walk or inline-skate through Freedom Park, where young professionals, couples and young families enjoy outdoor activities.  Another neighborhood park, Historic Fourth Ward Park, every June hosts the Old Fourth Ward Park Arts Festival. Other popular events include the Sweet Auburn Historic District's Springfest, the South's largest African-American heritage festival, and the National Black Arts Festival. The neighborhood is also becoming more bicycle-friendly, with newly constructed bicycle lanes along Ponce de Leon Avenue.

One of the neighborhood's biggest draws is its food, from some of the city's best barbeque to upscale restaurants and bars serving up artisan cocktails. If you love to take in live music, check out The Masquerade, which brings in nationally known acts.

Old Fourth Ward's crown jewel, however, may be the 1.1 million square-foot Ponce City Market, the largest redevelopment project in Atlanta's history. The former Sears and Roebuck Building, also once used by the city of Atlanta, is being transformed into an upscale venue for retail shops, restaurants, offices and apartments, and is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2014. Another redevelopment project, The Studioplex, is a restored cotton warehouse that mixes retail and residential space, and is popular with young professionals and entrepreneurs.

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