Resolution renames Old World Third as Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

It was a source of contention for 37 years – extending Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive all the way into downtown Milwaukee.

But today – that has changed. And city leaders say it took so long.

"Currently Martin Luther King Drive stops at the entrance of downtown Milwaukee," Mayor Tom Barrett said. "Today, I’m signing into place a resolution renaming Old World Third Street as it spans from West McKinley Avenue to West Wisconsin Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive."

To some – a simple changing of street names may not sound like a big deal.

"I think we decided collectively in doing something that I don’t have a memory of the council ever doing and that is unanimously sponsoring a resolution before it even comes to committee," Alderwoman Milele Coggs said.

But upon closer inspection – this name change – is historic.

"I want to take the time on behalf of all of our colleagues on the Common Council to publically thank Alderwoman Coggs for not giving up on this, even though it has been something that should have happened before I was even born," Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said. "It should not have taken this long." 

Nearly four decades ago, the extension of MLK Drive into the city’s downtown – was unthinkable.

"In preparation for this legislation I read all the articles and talked to some of the people who were even in the room when they debated back in 1984, and they spoke about how divided the room was," Alderwoman Coggs said.

The alderwoman says racial division was at the heart of why the street’s name didn’t extend into the city’s business district. And it was left to become Old World Third Street.

"My hope is that the signs and the street name change stands as a symbol for our ability to do something different here in the City of Milwaukee than has historically been," she said.

In 2021, if you're looking for a sign of positive change, simply check the name of the street you're driving on.

City leaders say they aren’t exactly sure when the street signs will be switched out. Businesses in the area are being talked with first, before it moves forward.

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Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signs resolution to rename Old World Third Street as Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signs resolution to rename Old World Third Street as Martin Luther King Jr. Drive


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