GREENSBORO, N.C. - A five year debate about renaming a stretch of High Point Road and Lee Street ended Tuesday night. Greensboro city council members voted to permanently change the name of both roads to Gate City Boulevard.
Donnie Turlington, a spokesperson for the city of Greensboro said the name change passed by a 5-4 vote. The four no voters were Diane Bellamy Small, Marikay Abuzuaiter, Yvonne Johnson and Nancy Vaughan.
Monday, WFMY News 2's Mark Geary talked with some small business owners who planned to fight the change. Critics say renaming the road is a costly mistake that could confuse customers and force small businesses to spend thousands of dollars changing the name on everything from company vehicles to stationery. Supporters of the plan say the name change must happen to clear up confusion for visitors and to help re-brand the entire stretch of road.
"It ain't going to create nothing. This is an eyesore. This has been an eyesore. They've tried to clean it up. Changing the name isn't going to help clean it up," long-time Greensboro resident Paul Amos said.
Step inside West Lee Street Tire and Automotive and you'll find one frustrated manager.
"We can do all the road improvements we want, but we don't have to change the name of the street," Manager John Thaxton said. Thaxton has gathered about 2,000 signatures from people who don't want the street names to change.
Ralph Havis, the owner of Beef Burger, helped collect some of those signatures.
"I feel like they're trying to run all the small businesses out of business and there's no reason for it," Havis said. Havis has spent years fighting the name change. He's afraid it will confuse customers. "We used to live in America. I don't know what we're living in now," Havis said.
City leaders pushing for the change argue the name change is part of a larger plan.
"It's not just about a name change for one or two roads, it's about the overall strategy for the corridor," Greensboro City Council Member Zack Matheny said. When visitors go to the Coliseum, the area is often their first impression of Greensboro.
Greensboro Area Convention and Visitors Bureau President Henri Fourrier added, "Changing the name by itself is not going to do anything. But, I think, with the development that's going on, the events we're bringing into town...it's part of the whole package." The package includes re-branding the entire area, making it look nicer, easier to navigate and more inviting to new businesses.
"In government, you rarely make 100 percent of the people happy. You do the best you can with an overall strategy and move it forward if it's the right thing to do," Matheny added.
Despite the potential benefits of the name change, Amos says, "I just don't think they need to change it."
Renaming the road would cost the city about $30,000 to replace the street signs. It would cost the state about $100,000 to update its signs. The council voted on this last week, but will take a second and final vote Tuesday.
Matheny said he wants to explore options to help small businesses with the cost of the name change, if it passes.
The change will take effect in July 2015.
Follow Mark Geary on Twitter: @MarkGeary