COLUMBIA — By this time next year, Short Street will no longer be recognized as one of Columbia’s oldest brick streets, but rather as the site of Columbia’s newest hotel and parking garage.
Construction on both the Regency hotel redevelopment and Short Street parking garage is scheduled to start at the beginning of the New Year, six months after construction was expected to begin this past July. The developer of the hotel, Dave Parmley, and his company, Broadway Lodging LLC, will be footing the bill for the reconstruction of Short Street, which involves widening by eleven feet and repaving it.
The Historic Preservation Commission has been advocating for the preservation of Short Street and its bricks, but Parmley has expressed his disinterest in keeping the current bricks in place, as he feels they do not blend with the new theme of the hotel.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Brian Treece, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, recommended the city salvage and store the individual bricks from Short Street once they are removed. The commission made its proposal because Columbia will be losing an original brick street, one of only eight remaining in the city. The commission said that the Short Street bricks should be used to expose and repair a block of bricks on Cherry Street that has been paved over.
The commission also advocated for the new Short Street to be paved with modern brick, like the kind seen in a few of downtown's crosswalks, rather than paved over with asphalt.
Stuart King, supervising engineer of capital improvement programs, was present at the Tuesday evening meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission, where he and vice-chair of the commission, Brent Gardner, talked about the feasibility of exposing the bricks of all of Columbia’s downtown streets as opposed to simply repairing the current ones first and foremost.
While Gardner would ultimately like to see downtown Columbia return to the brick that lies beneath the area’s modern streets, he admits that it is “a huge project that would take decades.”
In the meantime, the Historic Preservation Commission will put together a feasibility report detailing the expense of repairing a block of Cherry Street and exposing the bricks underneath the asphalt.
Brick streets typically require maintenance every 50 or so years while concrete and asphalt require work about every 15 years. Although brick is initially more expensive, according to a study done by the director of community development in Downers Grove, Ill., “the cost of maintenance of a restored brick street is about the same as maintenance of an asphalt street over a 20 year period.”
In the proposal that Treece submitted to the council, he underscored the importance of historic structures in defining and distinguishing Columbia’s downtown from other cities, stating that, “Brick streets are a natural and existing complement to our historic buildings.”
The next meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission will be Tuesday, Nov. 4th.