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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Historic preservation committee approves policy designed to preserve Wilmington brick streets

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The Wilmington Historical Preservation Committee unanimously approved a brick-streets policy on Thursday that could be reviewed by the Wilmington City Council as early as August. In a 12-page document, city staff laid out how it planned to preserve brick streets, and potentially restore brick streets that are now covered with asphalt.

“If there are bricks on the road now, we will preserve it,” said Dave Mayes, the city’s public works director.

The proposed policy primarily affects how streets are to be treated in the event that utility companies need to perform construction on the street to make repairs. Depending on how much traffic the street attracts, in some cases, streets that have been paved over with asphalt could be restored under the policy proposal.

The policy reflects the city’s recent campaign to gather public opinion on whether, and how, to preserve Wilmington’s historic brick streets. Through an online poll and two public input meetings, the public overwhelmingly backed preserving the streets, regardless of costs, land use or ride quality.

Sylvia King Kochler, president of the Residents of Old Wilmington, said the policy didn’t go far enough and wanted the city to establish a far-sighted plan to guide brick-street policy 20 years or more into the future.

“It’s a start, but it’s still a work in progress,” Kochler said. “We need a plan to cover an extended period of time that addresses how to uncover brick streets.”

Mayes and other city staff said that money to repair or restore brick streets could be made available as part of the capital improvement budget for 2018.

Kochler said while brick streets are more expensive to install upfront, there’s less maintenance over time and that can represent a cost savings. She argued that the brick streets help attract the film industry and make Wilmington a desirable travel destination.

“It is iconic,” she said of the brick streets. “It is unique to this city.”

Finding replacement bricks can be a challenge, as there are few vendors that supply authentic historic brick, Mayes said. While there are some towns that will sell the bricks, they can be of poor quality, he said, adding there are ways to make modern bricks have a historic look that can be used to help meet demand.

The policy also has to take into account the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that cross walks be handicap accessible. Mayes said there were ways to build crosswalks to be compliant with disability standards while still maintaining an appearance of authenticity.

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