Richmond

Richmond City Council votes to rename Boulevard after Arthur Ashe

RICHMOND, Va. -- After months of debate, Boulevard will now be named after Arthur Ashe Jr., the groundbreaking tennis legend and Richmond native. 

The Richmond City Council voted 8-1 in favor of changing the name on Monday.

Cheers rang out in the city council chamber when the measure was approved. The man behind the street renaming says the council's decision was an honor. 

"Anytime we can acknowledge our ancestors, people who have done things greater than us and their works are still helping us and pertinent to today's time, "Ashe's nephew, David Harris Jr., said. "It's a great opportunity." 

Ashe was the only black man to win the singles titles at Wimbledon, U.S. Open and the Australian Open.

Harris made the request in honor of Ashe more than a year ago. 

"This is an opportunity to truly be able to dig and say hey this is truly something we did during our time versus a later time," Harris told 8News. 

Ashe’s once-segregated hometown boasts an athletic center named after him, and a bronze sculpture of Ashe sits among Richmond’s many Confederate statues. Ashe faced segregation from tennis courts near Boulevard.

The proposal to rename a historic street for Ashe has been defeated twice since his death in 1993.

During the city council meeting on Monday, residents living along the thoroughfare argued against renaming Boulevard.

"This proposal has not been properly vetted by the community, let alone the property owners on Boulevard. We believe council representatives should inform and work with citizens before imposing ideas," said Bill Payne, a local who spoke at the meeting, "not just on Boulevard."

Ashe was also well-known for promoting education and civil rights, opposing apartheid in South Africa and raising awareness about AIDS, the disease that eventually killed him.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney urged the City Council last month to approve the change, calling Ashe “one of Richmond’s true champions.” Mayor Stoney tweeted after the vote was complete:

A 2004 city ordinance says street names indicated on city maps for 50 years or longer should only be changed under “exceptional circumstances.” Gray and Harris say they believe naming Boulevard after Ashe is one of those circumstances.

The City of Richmond plans to spend about $30,000 to get signs changed. Councilwoman Kim Gray, who fought hard for this renaming, told 8News she's hoping the change takes place around the same time the city celebrates its 400 year anniversary.  

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