Wyatt Williams wrote a really nice article chronicling the evolution of the the Historic Old Fourth Wards neighborhood from deserted drug land to becoming revitalized as one of the best neighborhoods in Atlanta and certainly the coolest night spot in town. It is all about the role my friends, City Councilman, Kwanza Hall, Grant Henry, owner of Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living room and Ping Pong Emporium and early on Joe Stewardson, neighborhood pioneer had a vision of what could be and stuck with it.
The corner of Edgewood Avenue and Boulevard in Old Fourth Ward might be one of Atlanta’s most striking neighborhood changes in recent years. Today, residents from Sweet Auburn, Old Fourth Ward, and beyond convene on this corner for nighttime drinking, dancing, and a growing number of restaurants aside the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District. The New York Times has published glowing portraits of the neighborhood. Home prices are booming and a streetcar connecting the area to Downtown attractions and hotels will start operating this summer. Read more.
I was also part of the revitalization with my effort to save the Historic Wigwam Apartments. I received an Atlanta Urban Design Award as well as the Ga. Trust for Historic Preservation Award in 2004 for keeping the Deco forties look and feel while converting this boarded up, crackhouse into condominiums.
Wigwam Apartments before restoration by Judi Knight.
Wigwam after restoration along with two other buildings built by Judi Knight.
Indian on the Wigwam Building, which is how the building got its name.
I also purchased the property next to the wigwam and restored a burned out duplex in the same footprint and style of the previous building. Later, on the empty lot between the Wigwam and the duplex, I designed and built the Wigwam Annex in the same style as the Wigwam, but with a more modern look. I created the three buildings as a condominium with 12 units. They share a parking lot behind the buildings and a courtyard area with a pond and a built in barbecue grill.
While I was doing those projects, a little boarded up neighborhood grocery located right across the street came on the market. I ended up buying it and making it into a sandwich shop with an apartment above. For the past seven or eight years it has been a neighborhood favorite called, Lotta Frutta.
Lotta Frutta before renovation.
Lotta Frutta after renovation.
For a while, that corner was a hub of building activity and since I owned property on both sides of the street, I felt like I was playing Monopoly and people needed to pass go and pay me $200. I was glad to do my part in helping with the revitalization of the Old Fourth Ward. There are plenty of people who buy properties and hold them waiting for the neighborhood to turn and property values to rise. But, if everyone does that then the neighborhood does not improve and no one wins. It takes people like Joe and like me who see a vision of what a place could be and start doing their part. Build it and they will come. And then people like Grant come in and make the place move and shake. Yay us. Yay Old Fourth Ward.