For almost 25 years, Henderson Place has been a bastion of affordability, especially for single mothers, in what’s become one of Atlanta’s most expensive places to rent and own, Old Fourth Ward, where a “gentrification wave” has triggered price spikes matched by no other intown neighborhood.

But the enclave of 58 apartments, built in 1951 along Irwin Street, has started literally falling apart, despite a late-1990s renovation by owners Historic District Development Corporation and a full refresh a decade ago. Faced with rising repair and operational costs, HDDC is left with no option but to raze the cinder-block rentals and start over.  

“The low-maintenance qualities of the buildings have become irredeemable maintenance liabilities,” HDDC officials recently wrote, “and they violate numerous code and accessibility requirements.”

The circa-1951 community today. Courtesy of HDDC, Mercy Housing Southeast

So the HDDC—an agency cofounded in 1980 by Coretta Scott King that strives for equitable housing—has partnered with Mercy Housing Southeast to build something rarely seen in red-hot submarkets like O4W: Mission-based, mixed-use development, as they call it.

The new Henderson Place will up the apartment count to 76 units in a new complex located roughly three blocks from where Irwin Street meets the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail.


An aerial of Henderson Place in recent years, with David T. Howard Middle School construction at right. Google Maps

Site plan for the development at Irwin and Grape streets. Courtesy of HDDC, Mercy Housing Southeast

Plans call for commercial space suited for a grocery store or community market, and one, two, and three-bedroom rentals reserved for both longtime residents and new arrivals earning no more than 60 percent of the area's median income.

According to HDDC, that will ensure that no longstanding, low-income residents are displaced and excluded from amenities in the area such as the BeltLine. (During construction, per HDDC, a recently hired "relocation specialist" will manage temporary accomodations, and current residents will be offered first right-of-return when the new complex opens.)

The project is expected to cost $20 million, financed with Eastside TAD and Invest Atlanta bonds, among other sources. Twelve on-site parking spaces are planned, with additional parking on nearby streets.

The planned look of Irwin Street frontage for the 76 apartments. Courtesy of HDDC, Mercy Housing Southeast

Perks of the location include the expanded, modernized David T. Howard Middle School next door and proximity to Hope Hill Elementary School a couple of blocks away.

The original complex was built during a period of decline in early 1950s Old Fourth Ward and later became infamous as a den of crime and drugs, per HDDC.

HDDC bought Henderson Place in 1995 and has been offering rentals to families earning 50 percent AMI or less—roughly $26,000 per year lately. It’s named for Valena Henderson, a longtime O4W resident and noted advocate of the civil rights movement.

A groundbreaking is scheduled October 1.

HDDC officials expect construction to wrap by December the following year, with the apartments fully occupied again by June 2023.  

• Photos: How Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Atlanta elementary school was spared from ruin (Urbanize Atlanta)