Streetscape afoot

Published 7:33 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Workers have been tearing up streets and sidewalks along West Street as the second phase of Bainbridge’s Streetscape project has begun.

But the real test will be on Water Street, in front of the Decatur County Courthouse and the Firehouse Center and Gallery.

Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said workers will see if the asphalt can easily be removed and the brick under the asphalt can be exposed and function well as a street. All of the streets in downtown Bainbridge as it existed in the early 20th century were paved with bricks in 1912. Asphalt was first laid over the bricks in the 1950s.

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“It’s a small test area, and we’ll see what that looks like,” Hobby said.

Thomasville’s experience with removing asphalt and exposing the brick pavers went extremely well. He said Thomasville was able to break up the asphalt with a backhoe, and the process was smooth and quick.

If Bainbridge’s experience goes as well, Hobby said he would like to see if the bricks underlying portions of Water Street in the downtown area—the parts which are not part of a state route—can be uncovered. Since N. Broad Street is part of a state route, its brick pavers cannot be exposed.

The experiment has been long-awaited, and it’s been hoped for by some after the positive experience Thomasville had.

“It’s just something in downtown that people wanted us to do,” Hobby said. “It’s a reaction to some historic preservationists to do it and to see what it would look like.”

The second phase has been funded using a $625,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation’s share of federal stimulus money.

The project was expected to cost more, but Hobby said the bid came in so good that the federal grant money will cover most all the project.

The project started in December and is expected to be finished in October.

Joe Schroeder, supervisor of the project for the contractor of the project, JCI out of Moultrie—the same contractor that was part of the new Bainbridge High School project—said construction started on the north end of West Street at Calhoun Street.

At the first of the year, some of the entrances into the U.S. Post Office were blocked off, and the West Street entrance into the Decatur County Courthouse may be next as construction progresses toward Water Street.

From the corner of Water and West streets, the Streetscape project will include work in front of the Water Street entrance of the courthouse and go down to the Firehouse Center and Gallery.

At approximately the same time, Joyce Leverett announced to Bainbridge-Decatur County Council for the Arts members during a recent annual meeting that the courtyard in front of the Gallery will also undergo its renovation, with approximately 670 personalized pavers being added to the courtyard of the Firehouse.

Other areas under this phase are the remainder of North Broad Street not done during Phase 1, and East Water Street from Broad to Clay streets.

Schroeder said traditionally, Streetscape projects have been inconvenient to businesses as entrances into their establishments have been blocked. He said he will work with downtown merchants and businesses in making the construction go by without too many interruptions.

The elements of this phase of the Streetscape include cosmetic and functional improvements such as new sidewalks, brick pavers, benches, trash receptacles, landscaping and street lamps.