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Controversial Street Renamings Go For Vote Monday

Midtown and Buckhead residents speak out against a proposal to rename two downtown streets. Atlanta City Council will take a vote on Monday.

Neighborhood leaders in Midtown and Buckhead are opposing the proposed renaming of two downtown streets.

Atlanta City Council is proposing to change the name of Harris Street, between Piedmont Avenue and Park Drive, to John C. Portman Way after the renowned Atlanta architect and Georgia Tech graduate.

Another ordinance seeks to rename Cone Street to Xernona Clayton Way for the news broadcaster and civil rights leader.

Council will vote Monday whether to rename the streets. The meeting will be held at 1 p.m. in council chambers at Atlanta City Hall, 55 Trinity Ave.

Wright Mitchell, a Buckhead attorney representing the Atlanta Preservation Center, and about 20 people spoke against the proposal at a conference yesterday. 

Residents and business owners are "determined to put a stop to the arbitrary capricious practice of renaming streets," Mitchell said. He said it goes against "the will of the public" and violates an existing city ordinance.

People at the conference said there are better ways to honor important Atlantans than naming streets for them.

"We really would appreciate memorials that add educational and aesthetic value to the community," said Rashid Zakir Muhammad, who serves as vice chairman of Neighborhood Planning Unit-M, which includes a portion of West Midtown.

Neighbors said renaming Cone and Harris streets would erase some of Atlanta's history.

 "We believe that our current heroes should be honored, absolutely, but in a way that doesn't take away from … those who have come before," said Buckhead resident Spencer Tunnell, a descendent of Judge Reuben Cone, whom Cone Street is named after. The judge was an Atlanta pioneer and major landowner. He laid out Marietta Street and donated land for the .

Tunnell, a fourth-generation Atlantan, said Cone Street was named for the judge around the 1850s. The judge built homes at the corner of Marietta and Cone streets.

"A city, a place, that seeks to wipe away its history is risking wiping away its soul," Tunnell said.

Mitchell said the two ordinances that would rename Cone and Harris streets violate an existing city ordinance. An ordinance, he said, was enacted in 2003 to provide the public more input into the process for renaming streets. The 2003 ordinance requires input from neighborhood planning units, historic preservation groups and the Atlanta Urban Design Commission. It also requires the approval of 75 percent of the residents and businesses whose address would change due to the renaming.

But that ordinance, Mitchell said, "has been routinely ignored" by the council. He said local neighborhood groups have formally voiced opposition and the design commission stated they are not in support of the proposed street renamings.

Neighbors said there are other ways to honor important individuals, such as naming parks, buildings or memorials for them.

 

Paige Taylor December 31, 2010 at 04:36 AM
Great job on this story. I didn't know about that ordinance.

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