Council Proposing To Rename Old World Third Street To MLK Drive
Extending Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. would correct an "injustice."
The Milwaukee Common Council could extend N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive into Downtown.
A proposal pending before the Public Works Committee would rename N. Old World Third Street to N. Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from W. McKinley Ave. to W. Wisconsin Ave., erasing the Old World Third name from street maps.
Advocates had sought to name a city street after the civil rights leader following his 1968 assassination, including first attempting to rename Center Street. Later, in 1984, Capitol Drive was suggested as another compromise instead of renaming the downtown street.
The current proposal is led by Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs. The King Drive name currently stops at the southern border of her district.
“This city did Martin Luther King an injustice by not allowing his street to go all the way through,” said Coggs about the compromise in 2018.
Alderman Robert Bauman represents the area to the south and is co-sponsoring the proposal. “I have to tell you, I think it’s about time,” said Bauman when reached for comment.
In a statement released after this article was first published, Coggs said the renaming was part of a bigger fight for justice. “This effort will undoubtedly serve as inspiration, hope, healing and encouragement for our continued quest for justice and racial equity. The road to a more equitable city and nation will not be easy, but small efforts like this serve as a demonstration of our willingness to not be silent in the fight to usher in the necessary change for a better tomorrow,” said the alderwoman.
The proposal has the necessary political backing to pass, all fifteen council members are listed as sponsors. Bauman said he couldn’t remember the last time that happened.
You would be able to traverse King Drive from its current northern terminus at W. Capitol Dr. and N. Green Bay Ave. south to W. Wisconsin Ave. in front of what is to be called the 3rd Street Market Hall on the first floor of The Avenue.
It would be the second time the council has renamed a downtown street in recent years. In 2018, Coggs led the unanimously-adopted renaming of N. 4th St. to N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. from W. St. Paul Ave. north to W. Capitol Dr.
Coggs said it was also symbolically important that Phillips Ave. and King Drive ran next to one another on parallel streets. King and Phillips were believed to be friends.
There still will be a N. 3rd St. if the measure is approved. A one-block stretch runs south of E. Michigan St., another under Interstate 794 and a third from W. Auer Ave. north to W. Capitol Dr. The last segment occurs because the King Drive name was applied to the angled N. Green Bay Ave. starting at W. Burleigh St., where N. 3rd St. is interrupted for a block. For more on the many names for 3rd Street, and other city streets, see a 2016 article by City Streets columnist Carl Baehr.
The Public Works Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its Wednesday meeting.