Demolition of a public housing project is making way for a mixed-use development, and other projects will change the landscape.
Long-term plans include naming up to 5 miles of Linden Avenue for King.
King was killed April 4, 1968, by James Earl Ray. The National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel where he was killed, will sponsor a commemoration on the anniversary date.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the Lorraine, said the assassination left Memphis with a deep sense of pain and guilt.
He contends the city could "do more to memorialize Dr. King's legacy."
For the city, the street naming is a large symbolic step in honoring King.
"There is no way we could do enough for him ... that would measure up to what he gave up the United States of America," Wharton said.