Columbia commissions continue brick street restoration discussions

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | 1:16 p.m. CDT; updated 12:13 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 16, 2011
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The Historic Preservation Commission is once again proposing a restoration of the brick streets in downtown Columbia, some of which are over 100 years old. Here’s where they are.

COLUMBIA — Hiding underneath many streets in downtown Columbia are brick streets, some of which are more than 100 years old.

Brent Gardner, vice chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, has a vision to restore brick streets that were covered with asphalt in the 1950s and 1960s.


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Restoring the brick streets is an idea that's been discussed for nearly six years, Gardner said.

When the city decided to work with property owners earlier this year to improve drainage in Alley A between Ninth and Tenth streets, the commission thought the location would be a good pilot project for brick streets.

“It wasn’t as wide as a regular street, and we thought it might be cheaper,” Gardner said.

In a City Council meeting in March, the city and Alley A property owners decided against repaving the alley with bricks because of the cost to repave the brick after fixing the alley’s drainage problem.

“Everyone seemed fine with that decision, and we continued our discussion on another spot,” Gardner said. 

Gardner said the commission has decided to target a block of Cherry Street, between Seventh and Eighth streets. Cherry Street from Fourth to Seventh streets is already brick.

While this latest idea has yet to be officially proposed to the city, Gardner said the commission continues to discuss the issue. 

“The most progress was made a couple months ago when we invited Public Works Director John Glascock to our meeting,” Gardner said. “We felt like we made a lot of progress with him. He was open to the idea.”

Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem said that if the city decides to restore any brick streets, the work will depend on the condition of the brick and the maintenance it will require.

Although Stedem said Public Works supports the commission’s endeavors to restore brick streets, she said those types of projects haven't been a priority because they are labor intensive and expensive to maintain.

“It’s not that there is no interest in preserving them; it’s just that there is no money in the budget at this time to preserve them,” Stedem said.

Stedem said brick streets require a different type of maintenance compared to asphalt streets. For example, bricks require a different type of blade for snow removal. 

Stedem said there has not been any money budgeted in the brick streets account since fiscal year 2006. She said the only brick street worked on for major repairs since 2006 was on Bouchelle Avenue, and it cost $83,265.

“It was in pretty rough condition for quite some time,” Stedem said. “The city added it to the budget to have it fixed.”

While this brick preservation project could be an expensive one, Stedem said brick streets are aesthetically beautiful and would add historic value to the downtown area.

The Special Business District Board has yet to take a position on the brick streets project, Carrie Gartner, the executive director of The District, said.

“One of the big reasons is there is not a specific plan in mind,” Gartner said. “A lot of the concern is how much is this going to cost, and does the city have the money.”

While neither the commission nor the city have any set plans, the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council has discussed the brick street issue in previous meetings and was supportive, Council Chairman Randy Gray said.

“Brick streets are an authentic component of downtown Columbia and would further enhance its distinct character, which is something all of us continually strive for,” Gray said.

Although this has been a long-term project, Gardner has continued to keep the momentum going.

“It can be a little bit frustrating at times," Gardner said. "I’ve been working on this project for six years. But it’s no pressing issue, and public support has always been really strong.”

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Gary Straub June 14, 2011 | 4:51 p.m.

How about fixing all the rest of the streets first? Why are decision makers always more interested in taking on new projects than maintaining what we already have?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 14, 2011 | 11:41 p.m.

If someone in the city is looking to pave something with bricks then I suggest that they get some brick and mortar and cover the whole circle that surrounds the fountain between the courthouse and the city center. Another way to say it is the entire bit of space between Walnut and Ash where Eighth Street is omitted. The concrete is in major disrepair.

I'm not suggesting that it be loose bricks such as speaker's circle or to the south of Ellis Library, although that seems to work there. I'm unsure exactly what is under those bricks. I'm suggesting someone fill in the crumbling edges of the concrete squares with mortar and then use the same to attach a brick facade to it. The main concrete appears to be quite stable. However, the edges are all crumbling, likely because someone used a formulation that was more for appearance than strength and that concrete is not holding up to the freeze and thaw cycles. A couple of years ago it looked fairly new. Most of the deterioration seems to have been since last fall. I noticed that the concrete in front of the new city building on Broadway, the one with the key way in front of it looks to be exactly the same formula and pattern. Compare the two and you will understand why I think that the one needs renovated. It would probably be cheaper to pave it with bricks than it would be just to rip it out. And I think face bricks on top of a sidewalk or patio makes much more sense than on a street for many of the reasons already stated in the article. I believe that in sidewalks the durability of bricks vastly exceeds that of concrete and that the maintenance should be absolutely minimal.

(Report Comment)
Tim Robertson June 15, 2011 | 7:52 a.m.

Having lived on a brick street in the East Campus neighborhood, I've got to come down against the idea of perpetuating the brick street approach. If history is any indication, even if the city finds the money to redo and restore the brick streets now, when budget crunch time comes the budget to maintain those streets will not be kept up. that means they'll get into horrible condition. If any street downtown reached the condition that Bouchelle was in, there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth. And even after the work on Bouchelle, it is still not in the kind of condition that any of the city movers and shakers would tolerate in their own neighborhoods.

(Report Comment)
Dave Overfelt June 15, 2011 | 8:04 a.m.

Lets get even more historical and go all the way back to dirt. I really like the classic feel of a dirt road. While we're at it, I would like to see the return of horse racing on Broadway.

(Report Comment)
Glenn Rice June 15, 2011 | 11:33 a.m.

The map incorrectly shows Ross Street in East Campus as being brick-paved. It's not.

I totally agree with Paul Allaire about the courthouse plaza. The deterioration is extensive, and the attempts at patching make it look even worse.

(Report Comment)
Francis Muller June 15, 2011 | 9:40 p.m.

What a wonderful idea! It can and should be practical!

What an embarrassing bunch of cranky, unimaginative whiners-excuse the personal exasperation with the complainers, but really!---who cannot see the beauty and imagination of this proposal. it is in no way a proposal to return corporoal punishment to the schools or prohibition to our imbibing for goodness sakes!

I cannot believe that this aesthetic and historic propoal with its attendant considerations (which have valuable traffic-slowing, and tourist-ambience increasing aspects that fly right over their heads) are so totally discounted by this miserable don't-change-nothin' types who have responded to this great, lively, energizing idea.

Hurray! Go go go! There are plenty of people who are charmed and delighted by this idea for both poetic and commercial reasons! Please push it through! Don't ignore the concerns--address them and show them that they are not too big to overcome....

(Report Comment)

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