Street Cred

MLK May Soon Make His Mark On The Friendly City’s Maps

Posted: February 14, 2013

Stan Maclin stands at the intersection of Vine and Washington streets. It looks like Maclin’s effort to rename Vine Street in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may be nearing fruition. “I think it’s doable,” Mayor Ted Byrd says. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
HARRISONBURG — Stan Maclin enjoys symbolism, and none more than that which promotes peace.

In Harrisonburg, though, he says one symbol is missing: a street named after Martin Luther King Jr.

That could soon change. Specifically, Vine Street might change.

Maclin, who founded the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center in downtown Harrisonburg, formally presented his idea of renaming a city street — Vine, preferably — after King to City Council on Tuesday.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the citizenry to know further about this renowned man,” he said.

City officials were already aware of the suggestion, which Maclin first brought up at a Northeast Neighborhood Association meeting in the past year. City Manager Kurt Hodgen plans to present information on the renaming process to council on Feb. 26.

The alteration should not come at a “significant” cost, he said, but changing addresses through the U.S. Postal Service figures to be the biggest step.

“It wouldn’t be an extreme process or a difficult process, if we’re going with Vine Street,” Hodgen said Wednesday. “The physical part, [replacement of signs] we can do quickly.”

About 530 addresses along Vine Street would need to change, said Stacy Turner, director of Harrisonburg planning and community development. The street runs from East Market to North Main streets, crossing Old Furnace Road in the process. At North Main, it becomes Mount Clinton Pike.

No formal procedure for renaming streets exists in Harrisonburg code. Council has the authority to change names, Hodgen said.

City officials are unaware of a street switching names in recent history. It’s not yet known what title Vine Street would have, such as avenue or boulevard, if it were renamed after King.

“I think it’s doable,” Mayor Ted Byrd said. “I don’t think the request is unreasonable, if you ask me.”

The city must make sure “everyone is on board” first, he added. That would include a public hearing and determining where the name Vine Street came from, to ensure that it does not carry significant meaning, Byrd said.

Maclin said Vine Street does not have to be the road that’s changed. But it fits his criteria: a well-traveled street near the city’s Northeast neighborhood, which was an early settlement area for freed slaves.

But Maclin wants as many people as possible to travel the street, instead of “isolating” one that starts and ends within the Northeast neighborhood.

As of 2009, more than 900 streets in the country were named after King, according to the University of Tennessee.
“This is not a distraction,” Maclin said. “This is really an enhancement to the city.”

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or

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