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Archive for Monday, July 3, 1995

FIXING E. LAWRENCE SIDEWALKS

July 3, 1995

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Neighborhoods are hitting the bricks to help preserve history.

The city's second-oldest neighborhood is looking to restore, protect and preserve its past, brick by brick.

Several residents in East Lawrence will have the brick sidewalks outside their homes repaired this summer as part of a continuing project to restore a path to success through local history.

The sidewalks, already in place for up to 90 years, will be leveled out along with other brick walkways in North Lawrence. The price tag: less than $32,000, all financed by federal grants.

"Brick sidewalks bring that historical feeling to the neighborhood," said James Dewey, a member of the East Lawrence Improvement Assn. "It creates a feeling of continuity, and not only with the past. You get the feeling of being a part of something that will go on past your lifetime.

"Brick paving -- it lasts forever."

This summer's projects are the latest in a string of Community Development Block Grant efforts to restore degrading sidewalks in older neighborhoods.

But this time, it's more than that. The nearly completed East Lawrence Neighborhood Plan calls for restoring the neighborhood's original brick streets, and CDBG financing this year will kick off the program with a single restoration.

In a neighborhood where homes average 90 years in age, history is not taken lightly.

"It adds to the character," said Bob Siqueiros, a city planner who's writing the plan. "It feels like a neighborhood. When you leave downtown, you know you're going into a neighborhood."

But walking along brick sidewalks isn't always neighborly, as tree roots can crack and push bricks out of place. And when displaced bricks pose a safety hazard, city officials tend to get nervous.

"Brick sidewalks take a lot of repairs and constant maintenance," said Terese Gorman, city engineer. "Somebody needs to stay after them -- to keep the weeds from growing up in between. It's not like concrete, where you can pour it and pretty much walk away."

But smooth layers of concrete don't send the same message as quaint walkways of red brick, City Commissioner Jo Andersen said.

"Some people like everything paved over, but you lose a lot," she said. "If you want to capitalize on the fact that Lawrence is a historic city ... this is putting our money where our mouth is."

C & S Shephard Construction Inc., Baldwin, earned the opportunity to repair this summer's crop of brick sidewalks when Lawrence city commissioners accepted its $31,686 bid Tuesday night.

The company's been doing intermittent repairs for 30 years.

"It seems to be something that people want," said Caroline Shephard, company president.

At least for now, said Margene Swarts, the city's CDBG program manager. While some neighborhoods push for alley lighting, wider culverts or new trees, others opt for projects of historical significance.

"Anytime you do those sorts of actions, definitely, it helps a neighborhood," she said.

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