Colman Street does double duty as U.S. Route 1, and under a proposal by Rep. Ernest Hewett the street would also honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The statement of purpose in the bill is to “honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by renaming Colman Street in New London as ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.’” Hewett said the boulevard title would be honorary, meaning the Colman Street name would remain.
“It’s a little more difficult to actually rename it,” said Hewett.
Hewett said that under the proposal, a sign honoring the civil rights leader would be put up somewhere along Colman Street. He said he would request permission for the honorary renaming from The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which was established by King's family after his death, and would invite a member of King’s family to attend the dedication ceremony.
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Hewett said the honorary name could be put in place by the Connecticut General Assembly since Colman Street is also used as a state road. He said he was inspired by other efforts to name streets after King in Connecticut, including the 2011 renaming of North Frontage Street in New Haven as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
“There couldn’t be a better person to honor than Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Hewett.
Hewett said he considered requesting a formal name change for Colman Street, but did not think the businesses along the street would support it. Several businesses along Colman Street said a more permanent name change could have a negative effect on business since it would be more difficult for customers to find the address and businesses would incur costs by having to alter promotional materials and other items.
“Change is not always good,” said Anita Goldstein Miller, owner of Goldy’s Restaurant. “People have always known it as Colman Street.”
“Purely businesswise, it would not assist me,” said Noah Levine, owner of Rapid Car Wash, when asked if he would support a formal name change. “People know where Colman Street is and it would take them years to make that transition.”
Miller and Levine said they considered an honorary renaming that would retain the Colman Street name a more reasonable idea.
Mayor Daryl Finizio said the final decision on Hewett’s proposal will be up to the legislature due to Colman Street’s status as a state road.
“It is very fitting that Rep. Hewett is seeking a way to honor the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said.
Hewett’s bill is currently before the legislature's Transportation Committee. Hewett said discussion on the proposal will include the logistics of where the sign might be placed and whether the funds for its installation would come from the King Center or another source.