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Time is right to consider renaming Cobo Center, says Detroit historian

Ken Coleman, an author and historian in Detroit, says now is a good time to have a "discussion" about renaming the convention centre, which annually hosts the North American International Auto Show.

Boxer Joe Louis is one name being floated as possible replacement

The move to rename Cobo Center in Detroit because of its namesake's record on racial issues is gaining traction.

Ken Coleman, an author and historian in Detroit, says now is a good time to have a "discussion" about renaming the convention centre, which annually hosts the North American International Auto Show.

The centre is named after former Mayor Albert Cobo, who served as mayor from 1949 to his death in 1957.

While Cobo is credited with the development of the city's civic centre, Coleman said he segregated the black population in Detroit and razed several blocks of the African American neighbourhood known as Black Bottom.

It was done to make way for the I-75 Expressway. 

"Mayor Cobo carried out the plan to displace hundreds and thousands of African American residents in Detroit," said Coleman.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is urging the renaming of the centre due to Cobo's record on race.

"The mayor spoke last week with Larry Alexander and expressed his strong support for the [Detroit Region Convention Facility Authority's] efforts [to] change the name of the convention center and urged the board to do it as soon as possible," said John Roach, Director of Media Relations for the mayor's office.

Alexander is the Chairman of the authority. CBC News reached out to him with questions about the potential for renaming the convention centre but he offered no specifics. 

"We are fulfilling our obligation with the guidance of the legislature of the State of Michigan -- in keeping with our responsibility to be good financial stewards-- to do everything we can to make Cobo Center a financially self-sustaining facility," wrote Alexander.
 
Detroit media are reporting one possibility would be to name the centre after famed boxer Joe Louis.

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