KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A civil rights organization has restarted an effort to name a major thoroughfare in Kansas City after Martin Luther King Jr., suggesting that three intersecting major routes through parts of the city be renamed after the civil rights icon.
Kansas City is one of the largest cities in the U.S. with no street named after King after a divisive battle last year over the city’s attempt to rename a major boulevard after him.
The new proposal from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City would rename Swope Parkway, Volker Drive and Blue Parkway starting at 55th Street as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Blue Parkway and Swope Parkway are main corridors in eastern Kansas City that connect with Volker, a major east-west street.
The SCLC-GKC submitted the proposal Tuesday to the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners, which will gather input from residents and hold two public hearings before making a decision.
After the city renamed The Paseo Boulevard for King in early 2019, residents mounted a write-in campaign to get the issue on the ballot, then voted overwhelmingly to return the name to The Paseo. Save the Paseo members, some of whom were Black, contended the council didn’t follow city procedures or properly engage residents affected by the change.
The new King proposal follows a June parks board vote to remove the name of developer J.C. Nichols from a fountain and street near the Country Club Plaza because critics noted Nichols’ practices were racist and promoted keeping minorities out of his developments. That decision raised almost no opposition amid racial injustice protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Rev. Dr. Vernon Howard, president of the SCLC-GKC, said in a statement the three streets involved in the new proposal cross several miles spanning the city limits, which would give King’s name a major presence in the city. He also said the proposed route would give Black people, particularly Black children, direct exposure to a thoroughfare named for a civil rights hero.
The section of roads that would be renamed also would be part of a central city sales tax boundary, which would help promote economic growth in the region, Howard wrote.