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The History of Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward Park
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The History of Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward Park

Mar 2nd, 2015

Almost every major city has a great historic neighborhood that, after being left for dust for years, becomes the target of major urban renewal and revitalization projects. In Atlanta, the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood fits this description perfectly. A collaborative effort between city planners, real estate developers, and trend-setting residents, the new Old Fourth Ward is home to thriving businesses, desirable apartment units, and an urban park.

Old Fourth Ward Park could impress just about anyone who stumbles upon it, but knowing about the history of this green space can make time spent there all the more special. This history may be of special interest to Atlantans living in nearby apartments, at communities like AMLI Old 4th Ward, AMLI Parkside, and AMLI Ponce Park. Let’s take a look at the park and its fascinating history.

Before Old Fourth Ward, A Place to Swim and Heal

Today, Old Fourth Ward is urban enough to feel like an extension of downtown Atlanta. This wasn’t the case in the mid-19th century, when the Ponce de Leon Springs first became a popular bathing destination. The springs were situated in Ponce City Market’s present-day location, just feet from AMLI Ponce Park.

Old Fourth Ward During its Heyday

In the early 20th century, the neighborhood was home to a bustling amusement park, casino, and ballpark. It was vibrant enough that, on the eve of the Great Depression, Sears Roebuck and Co. decided to construct an awe-inspiring building as its Southern Regional Distribution Center. The building, now home to Ponce City Market was and still is the largest brick building in the southeastern United States. As was the case with many booming cities in the country, the future looked bright for Atlanta and its Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. Then, the stock market crashed, consumer spending ceased, and development was stopped in its tracks.

From Rejuvenating Springs to Wastewater Flooding

For decades, Atlanta had trouble managing its wastewater as an influx of migrants flowed into the city. By the turn of the 21st century, the parking lots and warehouses that occupied the swathe of land now designated to Historic Fourth Ward Park, flooded regularly with excess sewage runoff. Gone were the springs that some hoped were an elixir of life. In was the murky water so unclean no one would drink it even after bringing it to a boil.

Atlanta Makes a Watershed Decision

As time wore on, it became clear something had to be done about the flooding. It was a nuisance and a health hazard that deterred investment of almost any kind in the area. Faced with the choice between building an expensive tunnel for runoff and designing a pond where the water could be reclaimed, city planners opted for the pond. The plan that inspired the Historic Fourth Ward Park project was conceptualized by a storm water activist named Bill Eisenhauer, featuring a 35-acre park centered around a sustainable water retention pond. The project, completed in 2012, didn’t deviate much from the 2003 digital renderings.

Historic Fourth Ward Park: The Finished Project

Historic Fourth Ward Park was built in two phases. The first, which included the Clear Creek Basin for storm water runoff and an amphitheater, was started in 2009 and completed in 2011. The second, which included the construction of one of Atlanta’s first public skate parks, a splash pad, and a play area, was completed in 2012.

Historic Fourth Ward Park may be a new addition to the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, but it has already secured its place in Atlanta’s history. Without it, the revitalization of this beautiful neighborhood may not have been possible. With three apartment complexes situated on or within a few hundred feet of the park, AMLI Residential is happy to be a part of the Old Fourth Ward community.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Historic Fourth Ward Park’s history or what it has to offer, check out this informational WABE audio clip.

What are your favorite things about the Historic Fourth Ward Park?

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