COLUMBIA — Brent Gardner would like to see a downtown lined with brick streets, where motorists slow down to see the shops and restaurants rather than speed by them.
Gardner wants to begin at Eighth Street, but he needs funding and support.
Earlier this month, he presented a plan for Eighth Street to the Historic Preservation Commission, of which he is vice chairman. He says he will continue his efforts with proposals to the Avenue of the Columns Committee and the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council.
The plan is still in the proposal stage, and sources of funding are undetermined. Gardner hopes for a financial pledge by the city and possibly federal funding.
“What really needs to happen is for the city to be behind it,” Gardner said.
Gardner calls the process of uncovering the bricks on Eighth Street "daylighting." It consists of scraping off existing pavement to expose the red pavers underneath. Damaged bricks would need to be replaced.
Gardner estimates the cost to be about $100,000 per city block, but he said that a brick street may not need to be relaid for 80 to 100 years. Paved streets need resurfacing every few years.
He describes the brick streets as “a little treasure right below our feet.” He argued that uncovering them would set downtown Columbia apart aesthetically, complement the city's historic buildings, add charm and warmth, slow traffic, and save money.
Mike Martin, who lives on Glenwood Avenue, agreed.
“They have a great aesthetic appeal, and they’re universally well-liked,” Martin said.
But some members of the Avenue of the Columns Committee have expressed concern over maintenance issues and large vaults that have been cut out of the original brick to accommodate utilities, according to Mary Wilkerson, the committee chairwoman.
The Historic Preservation Commission included Columbia’s brick streets in its 2010 Most Notable Historic Properties, which Gardner said was a good way to let people start thinking about protecting them.
To make the list, a property has to be within the city limits, at least 50 years old, and have architectural or historical aspects that add to Columbia’s social or aesthetic resources.