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Proposal to rename Old World Third Street to MLK Drive advances to Common Council

Posted at 10:06 AM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 18:59:42-05

MILWAUKEE — The push to extend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. took a big step forward on Wednesday.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett threw his support behind an ordinance that would rename Old World Third Street to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

The ordinance was approved by the Public Works Committee Wednesday, Jan. 27. The ordinance will now continue to Milwaukee Common Council for final approval.

Right now, the stretch between West McKinley Avenue and I-43 is named after the civil rights leader. It's the remaining length of the street, from McKinley to West Wisconsin Avenue, that supporters of the ordinance want to rename.

The name change would extend MLK out of the predominately Black north side and into downtown proper. Some people also hope, if this does happen, the history of Old World Third is maintained in the process.

Old World Third Street's name has been around since 1984. It was listed nationally, among historical places in 1987. Before that, the area endured decades of history in Downtown Milwaukee.

“When you tell people, come on down to Old World Third, you know where you’re going,” said Robert Wagner, a co-owner of Trophy Athletic on Old World Third.

On MLK Drive, Mi Casa, Su Café owner, Paul Whigham, said he likes the message the move sends.

“I think it sends a message that Milwaukee has tremendous respect for Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy,” he said.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Mayor Barrett said, “Displaying Dr. King’s name proudly on one of our most prominent streets allows us to honor his legacy in the pursuit of a more just future."

"It’s an important message to share with residents and visitors alike as they enjoy the heart of downtown Milwaukee," the mayor states.

Alderwoman Milele Coggs says it’s important MLK pours into the heart of downtown, as the street is known for its presence only in Black communities. She said being able to connect districts, like Bronzeville, to a Deer District, or Old World would represent everything MLK stood for.

“I just felt like the times are different now and that McKinley avenue split was symbolic of the segregation and separation,” Coggs said.

“That’s such a phenomenal thing when you think about it,” she added.

The full council will vote Feb 9.

Every single member of the Common Council is currently backing the ordinance.

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