Almost two years after laborious excavation work began, Jim Irwin stands where a plaza is being built as a sort of lily pad between the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail and its functional jewel of a greenspace, Historic Fourth Ward Park.

The new buildings around this plaza are forming what Irwin, New City Properties president, calls “the postcard view.”

No one was writing home about what used to be here in Old Fourth Ward, just south of Ponce City Market: vast parking lots where Georgia Power had stored vehicles and materials for decades. Though the site remains a dusty confluence of heavy equipment and cacophonous construction beeps and moans, the hype around the largest BeltLine-adjacent private investment to date—called simply Fourth Ward project—is beginning to make more sense.  

“Atlanta has a lot of great, beautiful parks, but not a lot of active plaza space,” says Irwin, leading a hardhat tour amid idyllic spring breezes. “We’re really trying to celebrate the possibilities of what the BeltLine can be.”

Irwin helped lead Ponce City Market’s transformation as senior vice president of Jamestown Properties. He’s hellbent on making this modernist mini-city a destination with similar magnetism—even if visitors are stopping by only to knock back an espresso in the shade before continuing their BeltLine stroll. He expects the first phase alone to cost $550 million—and the full project upwards of $1 billion.

Phase one calls for three office mid-rises, a boutique hotel, a stair-stepped apartment building fronting the park, and a trifecta of public plazas. Despite pandemic-related turbulence, all aspects remain on schedule, Irwin says. 

The Fourth Ward project attracted criticism in 2019 when $22.5 million in Invest Atlanta public funding appeared to be headed its way—a supposed economic accelerant in a neighborhood already exploding with development. New City ultimately backed away from that funding, and has received no other public incentives, Irwin says.   

With its massive palette of land beside a marquee park, New City’s goal is to redefine what public-accessible, BeltLine-adjacent space can be, and to create drama through architecture without being overwhelming.

“We want to do something iconic, that really carries architecture forward,” says Irwin. “I think it creates an amazing impression, and I hope everyone will agree we’re building something really special.”

Following two site visits this month, we’ve compiled an in-depth tour in the gallery above to help paint the picture of what’s happened, and what’s still to come, in this formerly forlorn section of the historic neighborhood. It’s certainly a new dimension to Old Fourth Ward, as the general public will begin to see later this year.

Before/after: A decade of changes in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward (Urbanize Atlanta)