Neighborhoods appear ‘United’ on a name to replace Confederate Avenue

Confederate Avenue is one step closer to a new name.

"United" was officially selected this week by residents and property owners in Grant Park and Ormewood Park to replace the contentious street names, said members of at least one neighborhood group that has led the charge to rename Confederate Avenue and East Confederate Avenue.

Ballots with recommendations including “Considerate,” “Soldiers” and “Phoenix” were distributed to households along both streets in late July by residents calling themselves Neighbors for a New Name.

Many of those residents live on Confederate Avenue. Votes were tallied last weekend and results were announced this week. Of 89 ballots returned, “United” received 48, and the others received fewer than nine each.

“In the absence of a prescribed process, Neighbors for a New Name developed one that we thought would be transparent, democratic, and the best shot at engaging the greatest number of Confederate and East Confederate residents in the decision,” said Jeremy Gray, one of the leaders of the group.

While an Atlanta city ordinance requires 75 percent of households on a thoroughfare to agree to a name change, the law does not regulate how a new name should be chosen. The signature threshold to start the renaming process was reached this month. It allowed City Council member Carla Smith to introduce legislation to change the name.

Smith said Wednesday that she will amend her legislation to reflect the new pick “at the appropriate time.”

Gray and Atiba Mbiwan, also of Neighbors for a New Name, said another neighborhood group, the Grant Park Neighborhood Association, held a parallel process to come up with a replacement. The GPNA held an all-neighborhood meeting recently and ultimately settled on “United,” Gray said. Representatives of the GPNA did not respond to requests for comment.

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Changing the names was a recommendation of an 11-member advisory committee set up last fall by then-Mayor Kasim Reed and the City Council. Before it dissolved in November, the Advisory Committee on City of Atlanta Street Names and Monuments Associated with the Confederacy suggested several actions the city should take to remove or address Confederate iconography. Immediately renaming the “Confederate” streets was among the proposals. The streets were named for a retirement home for Confederate veterans that was once along the street.

Residents have tried off and on for years to change the name, but their efforts took on renewed urgency after a white supremacists’s rally in Charlottesville, Va., last August left one woman dead. Some observers have said, however, that replacing the name is akin to erasing history.

People will get at least two more chances to weigh in:

» A public “listening session” about the name change is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m.

» And an official public hearing with the utilities commission, which regulates renaming streets, will be held on Sept. 25 at 9:30 a.m.

Both will be held at City Hall.

After those meetings, it’s expected the proposed “United” measure will advance to the full City Council for a vote in October.