Twenty-six years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was first honored with a holiday, his legacy has flourished -- and not just in the annals of history. Today, there are more than an estimated 900 streets in America that bear the civil rights leader's name.
But even as the memory of King remains at the heart of American discourse, many of his namesake streets are drifting further to the social and economic periphery.
"There tends to be a marginalization of King's name," Derek Alderman, professor of geography at East Carolina University, told AOL Real Estate. Alderman, who has spent the better part of a decade chronicling the number of streets named after the slain civil rights leader, has encountered the paradox many times before -- beloved as the man may be, in real estate, some homebuyers and store owners ascribe a kind of stigma to the name.
Using Realtor.com's database of homes on the market, an analysis of properties on Martin Luther King Jr. streets lends some credence to that view. In 2010, the median list price for homes with "Martin Luther King Jr." in the address was $79,900. By 2011, it had fallen to $69,900, a 12.5 percent decrease. The U.S. median list price was more than twice that last year, at $170,000, and saw only a 4.7 percent drop in the same period, according to the National Association of Realtors. (In the gallery below, see a random sampling of homes on MLK streets.)
Homes on MLK, USA
MLK, USA: Many King Streets Stuck on Economic Outskirts
In many ways, Alderman said, it's a case of perception becoming reality. Residents and business owners oppose the renaming of thriving streets because of an unfounded fear that the civil rights leader's name may hurt property value. Instead, the commemorations of King, who was assassinated in 1968, are often quite literally pushed to the margins of town, on streets of communities that are already economically challenged.
"When a street's name means something [to property value] it's because of the location," said Alice Palmisano, executive director of Brown Harris Stevens Appraisal & Consulting Co. in New York City. "Park Avenue means something because it's in a great neighborhood," not because the name has some intrinsic real estate value.
Compounding the problem for many of these predominantly African-American communities was the rampant predatory lending that plagued poorer neighborhoods during the sub-prime mortgage run-up. In fact, the Justice Department is now seeking to repay more than 200,000 minority borrowers who were steered toward high-interest subprime loans when many qualified for better terms. The search is part of a historic $335 million discriminatory lending settlement levied against Bank of America's Countrywide Financial unit.
But to write off the more than 900 streets that pay homage to King as "struggling" would be wide of the mark, said the Rev. Terence Dicks, project director of the "Claiming a Street Named King" program in Augusta, Ga.
There are several prominent examples of MLK streets with healthy economies and rich cultural legacies, such as the ones in New York City, Austin and, of course, King's hometown of Atlanta. But Dicks' project aims to take an accounting of the problems faced by MLK throughways that continue to face economic hardship.
"I want to see an area meant for bad, used for good," he said, referring to the stigma accompanying many of the streets -- especially when King's legacy is at stake. "Young people do not remember Dr. King as well as they should," and the negativity being attributed to the streets named in his honor is not helping matters.
Alderman, who has collaborated with the grassroots project, echoes his sentiment.
"There's just no way that Martin Luther King's name causes poverty."
MLK, USA: Many King Streets Stuck on Economic Outskirts
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:24.2 (20th highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 4.0 (11th highest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 5.9 (46th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 10.0% (43rd highest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: 87.6% (24th highest)
A number of features make Greensboro a first-class place to raise a family. Activities are plentiful. Its Country Park is one of the most visited parks in the country. It also has one of the highest playground-to-resident ratios in the country. Its excellent school system includes some of the top-ranked public high schools in the country, among them the Early College at Guilford and the Weaver Academyfor Performing & Visual Arts and Advanced Technology. Traditionally a center for the textile and tobacco industries, Greensboro's resurgence in recent years can be credited partly to new tech businesses opening up shop. With the local economy surging, home prices in Greensboro have risen steadily over the years, growing 4% from 2007 to 2010.
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:13.5 (42nd highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 3.5 (15th highest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 2.6 (13th highest)
Unemployment rate: 8.5% (33rd lowest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: 92.8% (8th highest)
Boise is one of the safest cities in the country, and it also holds education as a high priority. According to the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, half of Idaho's general fund is allocated to education.The city has an especially high number of playgrounds for children to enjoy, and for the older kids, among of the highest numbers of skateboard parks per capita in the country.
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents: 21 (25th highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 3.4 (20th highest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 4.9 (33rd lowest)
Unemployment rate: 4.5% (2nd lowest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: 88.2% (21st highest)
Omaha's unemployment rate for 2011 was the second-lowest among major U.S.cities, at an astonishing 4.5%. The city has a bustling economy, with a large insurance, health care, and finance presence. FiveFortune 500 companies are based there, including Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway. The city also has a relatively impressive high school graduation rate. Pediatric coverage is good in Omaha, as the city has a number of top-ranking hospitals, including the Children's Hospital and Medical Center.
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:15.4 (36th highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 2.6 (35th highest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 1.8 (7th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 7.5% (22nd lowest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: 93.3% (4th highest)
Many cities in Texas would rank among the exceptional places to raise a family if it weren't for high crime rates. Affluent Plano does not face this problem. Its rate of violent crime is the seventh-lowest among all major cities, and Forbes recently rated Plano America's safest city. It also boasts a top-notch school system. Due to the city's strengths, its population has more than doubled in recent years. Among the many side effects of that growth has been an increase in home prices that outpaced the rates in most other big cities.
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:72.2 (3rd highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 1.4 (18th lowest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 1.5 (6th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 6.3%: (7th lowest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: 95.9% (the highest)
Scottsdale has emerged as one of Arizona's power cities. It has an extremely low rate of unemployment -- less than 6.3% for 2011 -- and an extremely high median household income of nearly $69,000. It also has the sixth-lowest rate of violent crime among major cities. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Scottsdale has the highest rate of educated adults among all major cities. The city has the third-largest amount of parkland relative to population. It is home to McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the fifth-largest city park in the country. Scottsdale also has among the most baseball diamonds relative to population.
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:24.8 (18th highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 3.3 (21st highest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 4.8 (32nd lowest)
Unemployment rate: 3.7% (1st lowest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: 92.9% (6th highest)
Like neighboring Omaha, Lincoln's economy has done exceptionally well through the recession. It avoided major swings and the unemployment rate for 2011 the lowest among all major cities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment there hasn't exceeded 5% in the 21 years since the department began tracking it. The city also has large amounts of land dedicated to parks and playgrounds, including the nearly 1,500-acre Wilderness Park, offering plenty of places for families to spend quality time outdoors.
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:36.5 (10th highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 2.8 (29th highest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 0.6 (5th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 6.7% (13th lowest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: 95.7% (2nd highest)
Irvine is a perfect city for parents who want their children to enjoy the outdoors. The planned community was developed with a focus on greenbelts, and features many bike paths and parks, including the recently established Orange County Great Park, which is still under construction. Irvine has one of the lowest rates of violent crime among all major cities. Its unemployment rate for 2011 was relatively low, at 6.7%. Like much of Orange County, Irvine suffered far less than other areas from the housing crisis.
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:30.8 (14th highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 2.2 (49th highest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 4.1 (24th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 7.2% (17th lowest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: 91.7% (12th highest)
Raleigh is one of the strongest cities in North Carolina, economically speaking. Its high-tech and biotech industries are growing quickly, keeping unemployment low. The city has a top-notch school system that includes the highly ranked Raleigh Charter High School. Children are also surrounded by highly educated adults, as Raleigh was recently named the third-most educated city in the United States by Men's Health. Children have ample opportunities to enjoy activities, especially basketball: The city has one of the highest rates of basketball hoops per resident in the country.
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:77.7 (2nd highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 5.0 (6th highest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 1.9 (8th lowest)
Unemployment rate: 6.1% (5th lowest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: 93.1% (5th highest)
Virginia Beach is extremely prosperous, due in large part to the presence of several military bases in the area. It has the eighth-lowest rate of violent crime among major cities and the fifth-lowest unemployment rate. It also has the second-largest acreage of parkland per capita, behind only New Orleans, which has suffered huge population losses in recent years. Virginia Beach also has one of the highest numbers of playgrounds per capita in the country.
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:22.3 (22nd highest)
Playgrounds per 1,000 residents: 7.0 (5th highest)
Violent crimes per 1,000 residents: 3.9 (21st lowest)
Unemployment rate: 5.1% (3rd lowest)
Adults with at least a high school degree: (3rd highest)
Madison's economic boom started in the 1990s and has just kept on going, largely avoiding the recent national recession. In 2011, its unemployment rate was 5.1%, far less than the national rate of 8.9%. Among the engines powering the city's economy are the state government, the University of Wisconsin- Madison, and its growing health and biotech industries. Madison is also a great place for recreational activities, with large amounts of land dedicated to public parks. Families can also take part in many water activities, as it borders multiple lakes.