St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter stood high in the air in the bucket of a utility vehicle as a crowd of a couple hundred shouted a countdown Tuesday afternoon. Then the mayor removed fabric covering a street sign to reveal the road's now-official name: Rondo Avenue.

The street, once the main commercial artery for St. Paul's historically Black community, was mostly destroyed when Interstate 94 was built in the 1950s and ′60s. A part that remained as a frontage road was renamed Concordia Avenue in 1964 in honor of the nearby college.

But a few months ago, the City Council voted to restore the Rondo name to stretches of Concordia and St. Anthony avenues to match the street's historic footprint.

It was an emotional moment for those gathered at Tuesday's ceremony outside the Rondo Center of Diverse Expression, many of whom remembered a time when the avenue was a bustling hub for business and culture.

"I'm not going to go into what happened in the past; we know what that was," said former St. Paul City Council Member Russel Balenger, who grew up in Rondo and led the effort to restore the street name. "But maybe what some don't realize is what we were able to take from that — that we knew what community was, and we knew how to rebuild community."

About a decade ago, ceremonial street signs were installed to honor the Rondo name, but the council's recent actions made the change official. About $23,000 was allocated in the city's 2024 budget to pay for new street signs and assistance to property owners whose addresses will be affected.

North of the interstate, Rondo Avenue now runs between Western Avenue and Rice Street. South of the highway, it's bookended by Griggs and Mackubin streets.

"Although the freeway … took away our homes, our families, our businesses, it did not take away the spirit of Rondo, the spirit of the place that we continue to call home," said City Council Member Anika Bowie, who grew up in the neighborhood she now represents.

Carter, whose grandfather owned businesses in Rondo, christened the moment as a bridge connecting the community's past and future.

"It is a symbol — but it's a symbol of an enormous body of work that exists," the mayor said, aimed at making amends for past injustices.

Such efforts include Reconnect Rondo, the push for a land bridge capping the interstate; St. Paul's reparations commission, an advisory body exploring ways for the city to repair damage caused by systemic racism; and the Inheritance Fund, a program that Carter's administration launched to help former Rondo residents and their descendants with down payments and home repairs.

Music blared as current and former residents of the neighborhood mingled after the ceremony, catching up with those who returned for the occasion, including one Rondo native who now lives in the Virgin Islands. Organizers handed out keychains and cookies commemorating the day.

Balenger said that earlier Tuesday he'd received questions from friends asking where the event would be held.

"I got to tell them," he said, "on the corner of Rondo and Fisk."