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Brick Streets Master Plan Compromise Could Lead To Adoption

The City of Bloomington's Public Works director and members of the Historic Preservation Commission have reached a compromise on a draft revision of the city's Brick Streets Master Plan.

The vice chair of the commission thinks the new plan will get majority support from the commission when it meets Thursday, Aug. 17.

"I think what has changed with this new version of the plan is that there's some acknowledgment of potential historic districts," said Lea Cline, Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) vice chair. "There are areas of our city that we'd like to see preserved and not see allowed to degrade, areas like South Hill, Miller Park. There are some really historic characteristics there, although it hasn't yet been fully designated as a historic district."

Cline calls the draft plan a solid start. The plan would use a weighted evaluation system looking first at the street and its condition, with the area of the street and whether it's in a historic district playing a large, but secondary role. The system and the draft plan is the result of a lot of back and forth between the HPC and the city's Public Works department over the past couple of weeks. Both Cline and Public Works Director Jim Karch say there is increased, beneficial communication between the HPC and Public Works. 

"There's been a good partnership moving through to this point to really find a compromise on what we call the prioritization model, we're using," said Karch. "That's where there was some difficulty. How do you find a way to give real weight and real measure because everyone looks at the streets differently?" 

The evaluation of brick streets will be based in part on the Paser rating and evaluation system developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The compromise also holds off on the concrete or asphalt patching of brick streets and no longer requires 80 percent of adjacent homeowners to sign off before a brick street would be preserved as a brick street. 

"I agree the brick streets belong to everybody no matter where they are, and so that for me is a guiding assumption. I understand having community involvement, but I don't think it has to be those neighbors (living on the brick street). I recognize that brick streets across the city are worth saving and I'm willing to help volunteer to help make those survive, even though they're not in my neighborhood," said Cline. 

While the city had developed a Brick Streets Master Plan in 2009 to try to preserve the approximately 3.5 miles of brick streets remaining, it was never adopted. 

"We've lost some brick streets since 2009 or portions of them because there was not a policy or master plan in place," said Karch.

A plan to asphalt over a 100-year-old section of brick paved Monroe Street brought the issue back to the attention of the city council in April. At that time, the council directed HPC and Public Works to revise and implement the 2009 plan. 

Implementing the plan won't be cheap. The city is recommending a 10-year plan with $500,000 in annual funding. Cline would like to see that amount start higher to address some streets she thinks need attention immediately with the annual amount decreasing in subsequent years. While more expensive, a brick street with proper maintenance can outlast an asphalt street by more than 70 years. 

Cline says while she thinks the plan will be adopted by the HPC and forwarded to aldermen for approval, she's encouraging residents who are interested in the issue to attend the meeting at 5 p.m. Aug. 17 at Bloomington City Hall.

This interactive map shows the location of brick streets as identified in the 2009 master plan:

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