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In Old Fourth Ward, redo of Martin Luther King Jr.’s former school is barreling ahead

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Long-abandoned David T. Howard High School will become a modernized middle school to ease crowding in the Grady cluster

A scaffolding wrapped around the building. Yellow construction vehicles are on red clay out front.
The school’s modernization effort could run up a $50 million construction tab.
Photos: Sean Keenan, Curbed Atlanta

In 1923, David T. Howard’s name was mounted on the side of an elementary school in Old Fourth Ward, an homage to a man who founded Atlanta’s first black-owned bank, seven decades after he’d been born into America’s slave trade.

More than a half-century later, Howard’s namesake building, which later became a high school, had educated the likes of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., basketball legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier, and Olympic gold medalist Mildred McDaniel Singleton—all prominent black leaders hailing from Atlanta.

But in 1976, the historic school was shuttered and downgraded to a surplus facility for Atlanta Public Schools. Since then, the school has been falling apart, a victim to the sands of time and neglect.

Early last month, however, the old structure’s long-awaited rebirth officially began, as construction crews dug into the parcel at the corner of Randolph Street and John Wesley Dobbs Avenue, launching what’s set to become a $50 million makeover and expansion project.

The Irwin Street entrance.
Another architect rendering of the to-be remodeled Howard High School
What appears to be the Irwin Street side of the new Howard Middle School.
ATLsuper Blog

Thus far, three onsite buildings have been demolished, grading work has kicked off, and a scaffolding exoskeleton has wrapped the main schoolhouse.

Howard High School’s resurrection will turn the building into a middle school, which is expected to curb crowding issues at Virginia-Highland’s Inman Middle School, part of APS’s Grady cluster.

Once the new school opens, which is expected to happen in time for the 2020 fall semester, Inman Middle School will be converted into an elementary school; meanwhile, the bigger, modernized middle school in the new location will see its capacity bumped from 825 to 1,375 students, according to Atlanta INtown.

All that dirt used to be a field for youth athletics.

Led by Parrish Construction Group, the revitalization plans call for, among other aspects, better pedestrian and bike access, more parking for visitors and staff, and a “network of bio-retention cells across the site to help filter surface runoff and reduce demand on city infrastructure,” according to an April blog post by APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

Developers will also preserve the gym and basketball court that Frazier once dribbled on, while new additions will include a state-of-the-art media center, cafeteria, and an auditorium. Outside, expect a new athletic field facing Irwin Street.

The project is being funded by $52 million of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money.

A architect rendering of a beautiful, renovated Howard Middle School.
The John Wesley Dobbs face, post-renovation and expansion.
ATLsuper Blog

Inman Middle School

774 Virginia Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30306