The battle over renaming Grand River Avenue after Cesar Chavez in Old Town, which was supposedly over, took a new turn on Monday night as the Council heard views about whether to add signs acknowledging the road’s history. Council approved naming the stretch through Old Town after the civil rights leader on Oct. 31.
The Old Town Commercial Association originally opposed changing the name of Grand River in part because it dates back to Michigan’s earliest white settlement days and was an early paved road. The association dropped its opposition after the fight with Hispanic community leaders became contentious.
But some Old Town business owners and residents are making the case that the Grand River name should stick around, as an “honorary” or “historic” designation. In essence they are proposing flipping the current sign layout. Right now, the official name of Grand River Avenue is on sign posts with the honorary name of Cesar Chavez Avenue above it.
Another issue, revolving around city expense, is whether to change every street sign to reflect both names or just to do it at the beginning and end of the stretch being renamed.
Rick Preuss, who owns Preuss Pets, which is on the affected stretch, points to the history of his own building. It housed the city’s first Ford dealership.
“Do you think that was by accident?” he asked.“That road created a boost in economic development and as a result created the structures that we now see as Old Town and all of its charm.”.
He argues that the historic designation will act as a draw for auto enthusiasts interested in the early history of the auto industry. In addition, he said, it would allow businesses to highlight the important contributions of Chavez and his many visits to Lansing.
Council will decide on the signage question on Dec. 11.