Hundreds of people, including elected officials, leaders within the African-American community, students, and construction contractors, attended today’s opening ceremony for Martin Luther King Jr. Way through the heart of the University District, according to a news release from the City of Spokane.

During the celebration, Mayor Condon presented keys to the City to both the Rev. Percy “Happy” Watkins and Ivan Bush, long-time organizers of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March and Rally, as well as community leaders in the area of equal rights. Rev. Watkins and Mr. Bush are stepping down from their roles as organizers of the annual march.

The ceremony also included remarks from a dozen speakers, a performance by the Grant Elementary School drummers and dancers, classic cars from the 1950s and 60s, and a song performed by Martin Herford. Herford’s selection also was sung at Dr. King’s funeral and the opening of the monument in his honor in Washington, D.C., last year.

At the ceremony’s end, the crowd released balloons and dignitaries took the first ride down the new street in classic cars provided by the H.A.S.S.I.E. car club. The street opened to regular traffic at about 1 p.m.

The new street features complete streets elements including bike lanes, street trees, wide sidewalks, and an elevated median, it reduces vehicular traffic on Spokane Falls Boulevard and helps slow traffic in the center of the Riverpoint campus, creating an inviting setting in the University District. Phase II of this project, planned for 2013, will run from Sherman St. east along the Spokane River, under the Hamilton Street Bridge to Perry St. and Trent Avenue. 

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