Street rename recognizes civil rights activist

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The intersection of César E. Chávez Avenue (Grandville Avenue SW) and Martin Luther King Jr. Street (Franklin Street SE and SW) makes Grand Rapids the first Michigan city with an intersection honoring the two civil rights leaders, according to the city. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

Following a communitywide effort to honor a civil rights leader, the East Grand Rapids City Commission approved renaming Franklin Street SE to Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

Monday’s vote to rename Franklin Street, from west city limits to Plymouth Avenue SE followed a November request submitted by the Moving Ahead for Remarkable Civil Rights Heroes (M.A.R.C.H.) Committee. The street will be renamed on May 2.

“The renaming of Franklin Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Street is a significant and intentional way we can honor Dr. King’s life and legacy and celebrate our community’s commitment to equity and inclusion,” said East Grand Rapids Mayor Katie Favale. “These signs will offer a daily reminder of what Dr. King stood for, why we need to continue to push for civil rights and how we can be a welcoming community for everyone.”

Franklin Street signs will be removed on May 2 and be replaced with green Martin Luther King Jr. Street signs and blue commemorative Franklin Street signs. The commemorative Franklin Street designation enables residents to use Martin Luther King Jr. Street or Franklin Street for mail, delivery and navigation. The city estimated the cost and installation for the 14 new signs will be less than $5,000.

Franklin Street SE runs onto Franklin Street SW through the city of Grand Rapids, which renamed its portion to Martin Luther King Jr. Street following a similar M.A.R.C.H. Committee request and a city commission vote. The group proposed the city change the name of the street between Oakland Avenue SW and the Grand Rapids/East Grand Rapids boundary. The city also renamed Grandville Avenue SW to César E. Chávez Avenue between Clyde Park Avenue SW and Weston Street SW.

The intersection of César E. Chávez Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Street makes Grand Rapids the first Michigan city with an intersection honoring the two civil rights leaders, according to the city.

The renaming of the Grand Rapids intersection and sign installation took effect Feb. 22 at a city-held sign installation ceremony. The city estimated the cost for new signage and installation would be approximately $20,000, including an added cost for highway signage on U.S. 131 in coordination with the Michigan Department of Transportation at the former Franklin Street exit.

In Grand Rapids, blue commemorative street signs, paid for by local sponsors, were installed below the green street signs to indicate the streets historically were known as Franklin Street and Grandville Avenue.

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