A mural of late U.S. Congressman John Lewis in the lobby of The Darwin Hotel’s lobby. The mural includes one of Lewis’ well-known quotes, “Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Never lose that sense of hope.” (Photos by  Ben Brinker with Atlas ATL and Abhi Thaker with XC Films)

The renovation of an aging Red Roof Inn into one of Atlanta’s newest boutique hotels is one more development marking the fast changes happening to the historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.

The four-story Darwin Hotel opened in December at 585 Parkway Drive, less than a mile from Ponce City Market and the Atlanta Beltline. Other adaptive reuse boutique hotels in Old Fourth Ward include Hotel Clermont and the Wylie Hotel.

“The neighborhood is getting known for these kinds of cute, little hotels, which Atlanta didn’t have,” said Billie P. Thorne, principal at C+TC Design Studio, who worked on the architecture and design of The Darwin. “It’s exciting for somebody who travels to see these types of properties emerging in Atlanta.”

The evolution of Old Fourth Ward, from a gritty, industrial hub into a neighborhood known for trendy restaurants and luxury apartments, inspired the hospitality concept for The Darwin, Thorne said.

“We spent time getting to really know the neighborhood … diving in and figuring out what makes it unique,” he said. “And the way we felt like we could finally tie it together was the idea of change through time and evolution.”

Cassette tapes line shelves in the lobby to pay tribute to local musicians. Sconces on the walls and tiles on the floor are reminiscent of time capsules. Hourglasses dot the lobby, another nod to the passage of time. The hotel is named for the famed biologist, Charles Darwin.

The hotel’s owner, Shyam Patel, also wanted to celebrate Atlanta’s emerging talent in the arts such as cooking, singing and acting, Thorne said.

“We were trying to tie a bunch of things together and we came up with this idea of a time capsule and how time things can change,” she said.

Behind the front desk are paper airplanes, while origami cranes also decorate the lobby. They are symbols of change, Thorne said.

Credit: Ben Brinker at Atlas ATL & Abhi Thaker at XC Films.

A large mural of former U.S. Congressman John Lewis by local artist Lauren Pallotta Stumberg is the anchor piece for The Darwin’s lobby, and is meant to give visitors a feeling of hope, Thorne said. Colorful graffiti murals by Travis Love, another local artist, decorate the stairways.

The work to renovate the dingy Red Roof Inn building into a sleek, modern 111-room boutique hotel with an enclosed courtyard is another chapter in the neighborhood’s evolution, Thorne said.

“This project wasn’t a blank canvas, but it gave us a lot of ways to tell a story,” she said.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.