When the city ripped up asphalt last year for a repaving project along State Street downtown, DeTonti Square residents got a taste of the brick-covered treasure underneath and that taste lingered.
So much so that a Colorado transplant named Jim Gilbert, who has lived in the neighborhood since September, started a petition to ask the city to pull up the pavement along the nine-block area that runs from Adams Street to the north to St. Anthony Street to the south and from Claiborne to Conception streets.
Gilbert said the petition has roughly 170 signatures, with about 110 neighborhood addresses total.
“Almost everyone [in the neighborhood] wants it,” Gilbert said.
Among the positives, GIlbert said, is brick streets would increase property values and restore more historical integrity to the neighborhood. He added that he doesn’t understand how such a project would cost much if anything for the city.
“It’s already there, it won’t cost the city anything,” he said. “The city can just strip it off and go home.”
Unfortunately for the DeTonti residents eager to restore the historic streets, such a project actually could cost quite a bit a more, because it would require a complete rebuild of the road surface and the utilities underneath, City Engineer Nick Amberger said. He couldn’t provide an estimate off the cuff.
“What’s beneath the street, a lot of times, can cost more than what’s on top,” Amberger said.
Furthermore, he said, it would be “irresponsible” for the city to simply scrape off the top layer of pavement without doing a complete rebuild.
“You wouldn’t just scrape a layer of paint off a house,” he said.
Amberger said the asphalt helps make the roadway watertight and if it’s just removed, without additional work being done above and below the roadway, there is a chance the street could fail.
As an example, during the repaving of State Street in April of last year, Amberger said there were several irregular bricks and bricks that were damaged underneath the asphalt, which calls into the question the old surface’s integrity. Amberger also said the city is already dealing with a backlog of capital projects.
Kelly Baker, president of the DeTonti Square Neighborhood Association, said the bricks underneath State Street looked very nice and were “sandwiched in there side by side.”
“We knew there were brick streets underneath,” she said. “When they exposed them, we thought they looked beautiful.”
The bricks could be used to slow down drivers, which would be another benefit to residents, she suggested.
Councilman Levon Manzie, who represents the neighborhood, said he’s noted the petition, but added that it is one of several capital projects requested by residents of District 2.
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