ATLANTA, Ga. -- It is the street that flanks the north face of the state Capitol. It goes past the Georgia Dome, through the historic Atlanta University center. But much of the twelve-plus miles of Atlanta's Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is forgettable at best. At worst, it has been the address for some of the city's worst eyesores.
Murden's Barber Shop has been on ML King since it was named Hunter Street in 1961. Antoine Wade sees a neighborhood that's out of sync with its name.
"It should be cleaned up," Wade said. "From city to city, every city that represents his name, which is Martin Luther King, should be one of the glorious places to visit."
Last week, Mayor Kasim Reed hinted to city council members that the street is about to get a lot of city attention.
"We need to make Martin Luther King Jr. Drive one of the most attractive streets in America," Reed said Friday. "We all travel a good bit. If you want to go to a bad neighborhood, ask where M.L. King Jr. Drive is. I mean, almost every city that has a M.L. King Jr. Drive is challenged. And I think that we owe it to Atlanta to make sure that the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in our city is best in class."
The mayor's office said it was too soon to provide specifics. But the community has already taken notice. The mayor was in attendance when the Essex Court apartment complex met a long-overdue date with demolition in September. Steven Lee says the M.L. King Jr. Dr. Merchants Association has been in nearly nonstop talks with City Hall ever since.
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"A lot of the old apartment buildings, vacant units, vacant buildings just blighted areas. So the first phase is to get rid of that," said Lee, the association's president.
What follows, Lee says, will be a street re-engineered as a parkway - with an eye toward a new attitude.
"Martin Luther King Jr. Drive should not be one of the worst streets in any city," Lee said.
It'll be a long-term challenge for Martin Luther King Jr. Drive -- on a street that has had more than its share of them.