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Historical Development of Real Estate in Atlanta, GA Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 24th, 2022

Atlanta city is the capital of the state of Georgia as well as the cultural and economic capital of the Atlanta Metropolitan area and is home to 420,003 people as per the 2010 census. It is also the administrative capital of Fulton County. As the most populous city in Georgia and economic center of the Atlanta Metropolitan area, it acts as a support to around 5,268,860 people again as per the 2010 census (Korber 7). In this regard, Atlanta is the leading business and transportation center in the Southeastern United States with its connection to the highway, railroad, and air. The city’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was voted as the world’s busiest airport in 1998.

With a long history of since before the European settlement, the city which occupies an area of 132.4 square miles, has grown to become the center for education, business, services, information technology, and finance with an economy placed at 15 positions in the world and 4th in the country according to the World Cities Study Group (Keating 50). Major corporations have their operations in the city or the metropolitan area including Coca-Cola, Turner Broadcasting, and Home Depot among others. In addition, contributing to the city’s economy is the level of visitors per year. In 2010, the city welcomed more than 35 million tourists both domestic and international. The population of the city is also culturally diverse with many ethnic and religious backgrounds. The city also enjoys a mild climate with hot summers and mild winters that together with changes in the neighborhoods. This is because of increased incomes driven by the 1996 Olympics. Moreover, the city has seen its demographics, culture, and image change which has direct impacts on real estate development (Korber 10). A discussion of the history of the city and the path the city has taken in its development will complete the historical development of the real estate in Atlanta.

History of the development of Atlanta

According to King (95), Atlanta city began at Fort Peachtree where Peachtree Creek met the Chattahoochee River, and nearby stood the Indian village of “Standing Peachtree”. At this time, the place acted as the borderline between the Creek Indian lands and the Cherokee territories and it is believed that a large peach tree stood here after which the name Peachtree comes from. It is at this same point that Fort Gilmer later named fort Peachtree, was built by the Americans during the civil war, apparently to watch over the neighborhoods, which could have been to watch over the Indians. Today the fort hosts the Water quality monitoring station.

Another development that shaped the development of Atlanta is the 1826 survey by Wilson Lumpkin and Hamilton Fulton for a future railroad site of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Milledgeville, which was then the capital of Georgia. This site was later identified at Pittman Ferry near Hog Mountain, which is now Norcross, but the many creeks, valleys, and uncompromising gradients forced the change of site. This was settled in 1837 at the place where Foundry Street crosses the railroad tracks adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center, downtown and the development of Atlanta began (Kaufman 43).

The same year, the rail station site was identified, the Roswell town, which is north of Atlanta, is established when Roswell King arrives with his two friends and their families and settles there. The following year, Henry Irby bought 200 acres of land in North Atlanta and built a tavern and a grocery store around where Roswell Road and West Paces Ferry Road now meet. The tavern is later nicknamed “Buckhead” and later the neighborhood acquires the same name. A year later in 1839, two partners, John Thrasher and Johnson opens a general store near the terminus, which would now be on Marietta Street downtown near Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In 1942, a couple named the Carlisle established their home cum grocery store across from the general store, and their child is born in August the same year who becomes the first child born in Atlanta. The neighborhood which comprises new buildings and 30 inhabitants in the terminus is renamed Marthasville in honor of the governor’s daughter. By 1844, the town of Marthasville had seven streets, which are Decantur, Peachtree, Whitehall, Pryor, Alabama, and Lloyd. However, the name of the town changed in 1845 to Atlanta, the first train arrives in Atlanta from Decatur to the East, and a passenger train follows the next day (Kaufman 45, 46).

By 1847, the town had a one-mile radius already marked, boasted of 30 stores, several hotels, private schools, and a population of 2500, and the residents were ready for a change in the capital of Georgia from Milledgeville to Atlanta which happened in 1868 (Kaufman, 47). Later during the civil war, Atlanta becomes extremely crucial as the supplier of war materials to the South. Manufacturing of railroad cars, revolvers, cannons, knives, saddles and spurs, tents, belt buckles, and canteens became significant economic occupations of the town. This brought a lot of development with it, and after the war, Atlanta’s population had increased tremendously, many businesses were established, private schools increased to 22, and a bank and a University chartered. By 1910, the population of Atlanta had reached 154,839 with 33.5% being black, and by 1920, the population stood at 200,616 people.

It is also within this period, that the Baltimore Hotel is opened, and a model suburb at Ingleside town near Decatur is planned, which is now Avondale Estates. In the 1930s, a new 14 story City Hall is built at a cost of $ 1 million, Atlanta starts using natural gas instead of manufactured gas. It is also during this period that the ministry of public works commissioned a new sewer system. In addition, two housing projects are commissioned assisted by the federal government; these are Techwood Homes and the University Housing Project for blacks. Four similar housing projects such as Capitol Homes, Egan, Grady, and Herndon are built in 1941 also assisted by the federal government (Smith 67).

The economy of Atlanta continued to grow even during World War II, and by 1958, it was estimated that nearly 13% of all wholesale sales in the South are made in Atlanta. It is during the 1950s that a newly constructed freeway system was opened which enabled middle-class residents of the city to move to the suburbs. In 1959, Lenox Square mall was opened with 47 shops, which has now grown to be the uptown district, and the population of the Atlanta Metro and neighboring areas had reached 1 million people (Kaufman, 52). It is also during this period and most of the 1960s and 1970s that the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King was very popular. It resulted in widespread desegregation of schools, colleges, restaurants, hospitals, and many public institutions which further encouraged the movement of especially black people into the city also what came to be referred to as the “white flight” as white people sold their properties and fled the city. Before this, racial strive had resulted in forced-housing patterns where blacks were discouraged from buying homes in white-dominated areas.

However, crafty real estate agents invented what was known as “blockbusting” where they encouraged white homeowners to sell their properties mostly at meager values and sell them at inflated prices to black people thereby making a kill. The authorities tried to discourage this by erecting road barriers in Cascade Heights. With the white flight affecting the Western and Southern Atlanta neighborhoods, their composition changed as the majority of the residents were blacks by the 1970s. The city experienced massive growth in the black population becoming the majority of the residents in the 1970s. This changed, however, within a short period as suburbanization, rising prices, a fast-growing economy, and immigration of people from elsewhere neutralized the black population decreasing their numbers from 69% of the total population in 1984 to 54% in 2010 (Korber 9).

The 1996 Olympic Summer games

Another historic development, which changed the face of real estate in Atlanta, is the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Major development projects were undertaken in preparation for the games, in the city’s parks spots facilities. In addition, some areas were also required such as streetlights, and sidewalks. The principal changes were in housing patterns and the transportation system. Hotchkiss, Moore, and Zobay, (23) say that an estimated $5.14 billion were injected into the city’s economy, which changed its face dramatically. The money came from public coffers more than $ 1 billion, corporate sponsorship, and ticket sales.

Despite some logistical problems and the pipe bomb during a concert in Centennial Olympic Park, the games were a success, and the city of Atlanta was held in high esteem for its capacity to host such an event. To real estate development, this brought a lot of changes and improvements. In Downtown Atlanta, an Improved pedestrian environment was implemented, new housiwasere built, and old ones were improved, and converted to lofts, which brought a twenty-four-hour economy to the area. Low-income areas such as Techwood Homes were restored and changed to mixed-income apartments and dormitories. The Olympic stadium was refitted and changed to Turner Field. The Centennial Olympic Spark was established and added to the city’s green space, which has in turn attracted hotels and housing investments in an office building and high-rise apartment buildings into the area. This has led to an increase in conventions held in the city and tourist numbers. The games also made a lasting influence on the city by attracting investments from around the world and attention, which has attracted many people to reside here (Kaufman 65).

Gentrification of neighborhoods during the 1990s and 21st century

Gentrification means the movement of middle-class people into a working-class community a phenomenon that is happening not only in Atlanta but also throughout the country (Smith 69). This brings about people moving into new neighborhoods, physical displacement of some of the residents from their homes, and changes in the political power in the neighborhoods and throughout the city as Keating (52) claims. Keating (52, 53) continues to say that many neighborhoods in Atlanta have experienced gentrification such as the Eastside neighborhoods of Inman Park and Chandler Park. Midtown and Downtown neighborhoods of Kirkwood, Cabbagetown, BeltLine, Old Fourth Ward, Capital View, Peoplestown, and Adair Park are the latest to be affected by this. An example of how this is happening is demonstrated by East Atlanta.

This neighborhood was not trendy in its establishment in the early 20th century. It experienced conflicts over integration, white flight to the suburbs, highway construction, and a crime wave in the 1970s. The community formed a neighborhood association in 1981 that changed things for the better. Old shops were converted to modern stores while deteriorating homes were restored and business picked up. Though the process was slow, it was restored to gain its historical character. This restoration coupled by relatively low property prices and proximity to Downtown Atlanta has attracted people to this neighborhood. The council established a new zoning classification and building rules, used funds to improve the appearance of the area, restored sidewalks and consistent housing.

There was business code that required no- interest loan for improvement of property. This has attracted people in droves who have never lived in inner city areas who are seeking an alternative to suburban lifestyle. The five flocked Little Five Points along Moreland Avenue, and now they are penetrating East Atlanta. This has doubled the number of white people in the area and the population of the area is more than they have ever seen. Along with people, who are mostly young are unique businesses that match the tastes of the new comers such as food joints such as Diane Dreher’s Past Thyme (Korber 12).

Present neighborhood outlook

Atlanta city currently has 242 official neighborhoods, which incorporate traditional neighborhoods, subdivisions, housing projects and core business areas e.g. Downtown and Midtown. The city has three high-rise districts Midtown, Downtown and Buckhead, which are surrounded by residential neighborhoods. Commercial centers, financial centers, hotels and office space, government offices, shopping malls and parks characterize these districts. Atlanta East neighborhood is characterized by suburbs built in the early 19th century for upper, middle class while west of midtown are former industrial and warehouse areas, which have been restored to form apartments, condos, retail shops, hip joints. Northwestern and Southwestern areas form the neighborhoods close to Downtown consisting of gentrified neighborhood such as West Point, poorest areas such a The Bluff and well-to-do neighborhoods known as Cascades. The residents of these neighborhoods are mainly African-American elites and middle class homeowners. Southeast Atlanta is home to the poor post war suburbs, mixed-income communities and industrial and warehouse areas (Korber 13).


Atlanta City has a long history that started as an Indian village and has grown to become one of the most influential cities in the country. It serves as a significant transportation and business center in Southeastern US due to its railroad, air and highway connection. It has also emerged as an important education, financial, information technology and services center. The population of the city is also ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse. These and other factors have seen the city attract many people and economic growth, which have resulted into changes in the neighborhoods and real estate development. The city started as a fort known as Peachtree built by Europeans near an Indian village and with the construction of the railroad passing through this fort, the town grew.

Stores were opened at the rail terminus, where more people came to settle here, and eventually the town grew to a few streets. During the civil war, Atlanta became the manufacturing center for war supplies to the South leading to more growth in its economy. During the civil rights movement, Atlanta played a key role as the center for this movement. It was the home city of Martin King Luther Jr and had an immense population of blacks. This has a beneficial effect on real estate development since it led to white flight and block busting phenomena, which shaped Atlanta neighborhoods. The 1996 Summer Olympic Games also marked the beginning of another change in real estate development that continues up to date. A lot of money was pumped into the City’s economy that directly and indirectly touched on real estate development, which led to what is known as gentrification of neighborhoods. Today, the city has 242 official neighborhoods, which mostly extend from three high-rise districts such as Downtown, Buckhead and Midtown.


Hotchkiss, Julie, Robert Moore and Stephanie Zobay. Impacts of the 1996 Summer Olympic games on employment and wages in Georgia. Fiscal Research Program Report. Atlanta: Georgia State University, 2001.

Kaufman, David. Peachtree Creek: a natural and unnatural history of Atlanta’s watershed. Atlanta: University of Georgia Press, 2007.

Keating, Larry. “Gentrification, neighbourhood planning and the shaping of the 21st century Atlanta.” American Sociological Association annual meeting. Atlanta: American Sociological Association, 2009. 49-64.

King, Anthony. Re-presenting the City: ethenicity, capital and culture in the 21st century metropolis. New York: NYU Press, 1996.

Korber, Andrea. “Neighborhoods: is East Atlanta losing its soul?” Next City Magazine n.d October 2010: 7-13.

Smith, Neil. The new urban frontier: gentrification and the revanchist city. USA: Routledge, 1996.

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