Kivett scion and business owners oppose MLK street renaming

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Kivett Drive credit Jordan Green
Kivett Drive passes through the heart of downtown High Point.

by Jordan Green

The cost to business owners and the legacy of the Kivett family are cited as reasons for opposition to renaming the street in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

A proposal to rename Kivett Drive in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is getting a less than enthusiastic reception among business owners on the thoroughfare.

“We’re concerned from a financial standpoint,” said Jake Aberman, a project engineer at Stone Resource, a marble and tile company near the Interstate 74 interchange. “We have to change our brochures, the address on our business cards, our website and any advertising that we do that has our address on it.

“It’s going be a significant cost,” added Aberman, whose father owns the business. “It will be tens of thousands of dollars.”

The High Point City Council voted 6-3 to recommend that the street be renamed in honor of King earlier this month. The decision rests ultimately with the city’s planning & zoning commission. Councilwoman Cynthia Davis, who voted against the renaming, said the vote will likely come up at the planning & zoning commission’s next meeting on Feb. 24.

The five-mile thoroughfare serves as an eastern gateway into High Point that provides visitors to the twice-yearly furniture market their first glimpse of the city as they travel from Business 85 into the downtown district. Almost half of the four-lane street’s span from Business 85 to Interstate 74 is lightly populated with gas stations, underused industrial buildings, used-car lots and deteriorating single-family houses that are a relic of the rural past. West of Interstate 74, churches and apartment complexes predominate. Nearing downtown, the street takes the form of a parkway, with the railroad to the north, and a city recreation center and low-income housing communities backing up to the south side. The street converts to one way, running west to east at Centennial. For a couple blocks through downtown between Lindsay and Hamilton streets, the street passes furniture showrooms like Design Legacy and Julian Chichester/Mr. Brown, along with the headquarters of North State Communications. West of Lindsay Street, the HiTran maintenance yard is one of the notable properties among a handful of vacant lots and underutilized industrial properties.

The Guilford County Tax Department lists 214 parcels along Kivett Drive, a mix of industrial, commercial and residential properties.

Musing on the proposed name change on the official King Day holiday on Monday, Abid Rafiq, owner of Padrino’s Pizza, took a dim albeit philosophical view.

He said he would have to throw out all his promotional fliers with the Kivett Drive address and print new ones.

“Telling people where I’m located it will be hard for people to locate me,” he said. “I will say, ‘I’m on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.’ They’ll say, ‘Where is that?’ ‘That’s the old Kivett Drive.’ With my accent, it becomes a little complicated.”

As a native of Pakistan, Rafiq said his experience tells him that changing the signage doesn’t necessarily change the name.

“A lot of the cities there were developed by the British, and then they changed the names,” he said. “A lot of the old city people still call it the old name. It will be easy for the new people. Any change like that takes a generation.”

Kivett Drive Motor Co., a used-car dealership located on Avondale Street, doesn’t have a Kivett Drive address but its very name is associated with the street.

“I want to leave it like it is,” said Henry Cox, the dealership owner. “I’ve been here for 52 years.”

Among the most prominent opponents of the name change is William Lindsay Kivett Jr.

In an email to members of the planning & zoning commission and city council earlier this month, Kivett wrote, “The Kivett name has been an established name in High Point since the year 1903. My great-grandfather, William Larkin Kivett, owned a large progressive 250-acre farm on the now Kivett Drive in the vicinity of where Hatteras Yachts was located. He developed a cold weather-resistant cabbage that was much sought after by farmers and merchants in other states.”

Kivett said his grandfather served in World War I, and returned to High Point to operate a grocery store and launch Kivett Produce Co., “which thrived for many decades wholesaling fresh produce (vegetables and fruits) to High Point area grocers.”

The legacy of his family name is important to Kivett, but he also highlighted the needs of present-day business owners in his appeal to city leaders.

“Please consider that many residents and businesses that will be forced to spend money to make address changes, business sign changes, some spending considerable amounts of money they cannot possibly afford,” he wrote. “It is my hope that the Kivett Drive street name will remain. Please consider another street for Martin Luther King Jr. Drive that affects less residents and businesses and that does not carry such an important history for more than 100 years. Please help to maintain the legacy and heritage of the Kivett name in High Point.”

  • Observer

    The biggest opposition to the name change is not from the 400 plus affected addresses on this stretch, but from the rest of the populace in the majority who sees a longer and prettier and far cheaper street to change with only at best a small handful of addressees and intersections: the current College Drive.
    It is estimated by city thinkers that the cost in signage alone will be roughly ten fold more expensive to make Kivett or even Green, with even more needed address corrections, than it would to change College.
    The problem is that our local HPU heads are determined to rename College to University to reflect thier own change in status.
    This north to south city long and beautified corridor that the taxpayers have supplied for HPU’s one -of -several- tax -paid “gateways” ( one more in the planning) is the nearest thing to a publicly paid semi private driveway imaginable.
    We have a mid sized city with the highest cost of living and doing business from a tax and utility combined standpoint in the state, and the residents are beginning to awake to the reality of the still rising cost of being here relative to anywhere else in North Carolina.
    As proud as we are of things like Furniture Market and HPU there has come to be a belief that maybe our leadership pays way out of scale in relation to return to keep them and other power players fat and happy.
    Numbers are a dangerous thing in this town as we are told that HPU has 80,000 visitors a year and a like number twice a year for market, and yet we can’t seem to keep a continuous ownership to our center of town main showcase motel that was built on land built given to them by the city ($1) after a taxpayer site purchase. Heck, the original owners even left us holding the bag for another $4 mil that they defaulted on on top of the original cost.
    We have multiple spends unexplained on a regular basis and a tax paid org set up simply to fund “non profits ” of influence, under the denied influence of council direction.
    We have special discounts and free services supplied to certain orgs of connected importance with no public recognition of same by our electeds.
    We have large majority public here in favor of an MLK designation to appease a smaller potion of our overall community but it seems unaccomplishable by the sneaky politics or what passes for our leadership, little open to us as they are.
    Our opposition to a rename of any thoroughfare to the Rev Dr King Jr is not in any way against him or his legacy, but instead to the legacy that we have developed and continue to grow here, and now.
    We doubt he would be happy with the process.

  • Frank Swatson

    Council sent P&Z a bum steer, but they were only obeying their puppetmaster. The fact is, hardly any reasonable person objects to naming a street for MLK – that’s not the issue. The issue is whether to saddle 414 people and businesses with huge expense rather than name a prominent avenue with zero property owners for MLK. What seems like a no brainer, both practically and financially, has become an issue only because High Point University cannot stand to have an avenue named for a Black American running to their front door. It’s “bad for business” according to insiders at the University. And yet, South College Drive remains the most sensible, practical and affordable choice for honoring Dr. King in High Point. Only one question remains – can the High Point P&Z board be bought for a price???

  • Richard Bostick

    The fact that the High Point City Council would recommend Kivett Drive for renaming, rather than South College Drive only speaks to its incompetency or corruption, right out of the recent election gate.

    Consider that Kivett Drive encompasses 412 property owners most of whom will incur some expense, many a substantial expense. On the other hand, South College, at least as prominent if not more so, has only 1 property owner (90 foot frontage) and would face no opposition from actual property owners. It fills the bill and checks all the boxes to satisfy the greatest majority of people involved in this issue, but the city council either could not or would not see it, even when it was staring them squarely in the face. Who do they receive their marching orders from??? Not the citizens of High Point, that’s for sure.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    The choice is clear. The matter can be resolved in the most reasonable means possible by choosing South College Drive for the honor. Anything else; anything less, only reveals outright corruption by the High Point City Council.

    • Kivett also has the additional problem of requiring a very expensive cost to us by the state in signage change along the hiway that it crosses, estimated at a total of ten fold in all over and above the cost of signage for College.
      We hear that HPU has offered to pay the small amount to change the signs for College, but possibly materials only, with our labors thrown in as another freebie from us.
      Either way, a bargain for them to control a very long, purified and beautified publicly maintained street
      What the heck, it’s only tax money, ours, that is.

  • Jordan Green

    Richard and Observer: The Guilford County Tax Department lists 214 addresses on Kivett Drive in High Point. Where are you getting your numbers?

  • Observer

    Numbers quoted by our very own city leaders, possibly a lie.

  • Frank Swatson

    There were either 412 or 414 property owners as reported in the High Point Enterprise on two occasions. In any event, if there were only 212, or even 20 such property owners, do they deserve to be but to excessive financial hardship by people who do not live on the street and will not be affected by any name change to that street? At what number is is proper to for outsiders to force a street name change on those who actually live on said street?

    One fact remains — there is only one property owner, and it is a changing lease arrangement for a 90 foot frontage, on South College Drive.

  • Frank Swatson

    I’ll you with this — if you desired an egg, would you attempt to get it from a chicken or a pig? And why would choose the pig and keep insisting that it produce an egg for you?

    We’re in the same boat here in High Point currently – most of want a street named for Dr. King but there has not been a single instance where the property owners of any suggested street want that designation and they have always been able to prove excessive financial hardship. So why do we keep insisting on the same streets over and over and over. Why not choose a street where there are no property owners to contest the renaming, particularly when we have such a street and it is a prominent, lengthy and well kept modern thoroughfare? Why is anyone suggesting anything but the obvious, best, most sensible choice? What’s wrong with this picture…

    • Observer

      Simple, Needo doesn’t want it.