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Mayor Thomas Richards announced Wednesday that the city had begun the process of renaming Manhattan Square Park in downtown Rochester the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Square Park.
Richards drew a standing ovation in making the announcement during a City Hall ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and King's I Have a Dream speech.
The process is a legal one, essentially a map amendment requiring sign-off from City Council. Manhattan Square Park opened in the mid-1970s, part of an urban renewal project that never fully materialized, said city spokesman Gary Walker. A series of high and low rises were planned, but never completed. The plan would have filled out the area up to the Inner Loop and crossed Chestnut and East Broad streets.
The park, envisioned to be a central gathering place, was cutting-edge design at the time and the city celebrated its opening with eight straight days of music, dancing, street entertainers and fireworks.
Today, the city is $8 million into a renovation that has remade the ice rink/fountain pool, play area and should restart the cascading waterfall fountains in spring 2014. As for the existing name? "Manhattan Square means nothing to anybody here," Walker said.
It was not immediately clear whether the city would complete the renaming this month or next.