It seems no topic is small enough to cause a fuss, including the simple idea of commemorating a local leader. The latest issue at hand is the renaming of 34th Street to honor the late Rev. Louis Coleman. With the fight over renaming 22nd Street for Dr. Martin Luther King still fresh in the Louisville psyche, we need a better way to commemorate people and ideas without such unneeded controversy. We’re talking more about honorary street name changes in general than the specific case at hand, but it’s a timely fit.
One solution we are proposing is to rename a portion of street with an honorary name, not change the street completely. You can see in the photo above a block in Manhattan’s West Village that was recently named to honor the great Jane Jacobs. (She’s one of our favorite people, by the way, who, among other things, stopped a highway from tearing through one of Manhattan’s most prized neighborhoods.)
If you notice, the street is still called Hudson Street. The city just added a second sign to bestow the honor. Much easier and less controversial than physically renaming a portion or all of a street. Couldn’t this method work in Louisville, too? Couldn’t we keep 34th Street as 34th Street and simply install honorary street signs on a stretch of it that will achieve an appropriate commemoration and serve as a model for future street renaming?
This is a better solution as it doesn’t tie up Metro Council and the Metro Planning Commission for matters such as honoring a local figure. As it is, the planning commission will hold a public hearing then make a recommendation to Metro Council who would then have to make a decision up or down. Aren’t there more important matters for Metro Council than naming streets? There’s going to have to be some oversight, but it could be much simpler.
After that, we’d have to change all the maps and addresses all the while losing a little bit of Louisville history. In this case the continuous numbered street grid; another example was a proposal to change Armory Street’s name a while back.
A better solution, but much more expensive, is to create an actual “place” as a commemoration. We’re thinking a plaza, a small park, or something that the community can really use. Renaming a street will get the point across that a person was an important local figure, but, when it comes down to it, it’s just a sign. A community asset to remember someone would really be a commemoration.