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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Return to brick streets is attempt to revitalize downtown

Friday, October 28, 2005

Todd Kennard of the Sikeston Department of Public Works uses a jackhammer to break some asphalt loose.
SIKESTON -- While the city is embracing the future and the technology it brings in most departments, the street department is digging up a piece of the past.

Instead of laying fresh blacktop over exposed brick on streets in the downtown area, city street department crews are removing the pavement and uncovering the original brick.

"It's kind of like taking a step back into time," said Doug Friend, city manager. "Ever since the asphalt was put down, folks have regretted it. We began thinking of ways that we could literally peel it off or pop it off and restore what we think is a historical aspect of our community that was covered up."

Friend said the asphalt was first laid over the brick roughly 30 or 40 years ago.

The street department began experimenting last winter on ways to pull up the asphalt, according to Friend, and are now implementing techniques found to be effective.

"Their ingenuity in doing it is something to be very proud of," Friend said. "We feel pretty good about what we're able to do. We hope that before it's all said and done we can restore all of the brick downtown."

"We plan on using a crew every chance we get to peel that old asphalt off the brick," said Steve Lee, street superintendent for the city.

As for how long it will take to uncover it all, "it's really almost impossible to say with our regular tasks we have to do," Lee said. "As time allows, we're going to really hit it hard every chance we get."

Snow and other weather conditions may also slow the process.

"We're just excited about doing it and look forward to putting as much time as possible on revealing that brick," Lee said.

Unlike laying blacktop for which hot weather is needed, removing blacktop is a fall and winter project.

"The colder the weather the better because it makes that asphalt real brittle," Lee said. "And if there's any adhesive left it's going to let go easier when it's cold."

Once the asphalt is all removed, crews will look at way of repairing or replacing missing bricks.

"Right now were just as pleased as we can be with what we're getting out of it," Friend said.

"A lot of it looks to be in good shape," Lee said. "There will be some spots where service cuts were made in the past and the brick probably removed. We do have some bricks stored at the Public Works complex and there may be a couple of small areas we can repair ourselves."

Once the bricks are exposed, no other maintenance will be needed, according to Lee. "The rains will naturally clean it and they will get a little bit of a shine back," he said.

The project has been "heartily endorsed" by the current and former City Council members, according to Friend. "We're just as happy as we can be to be able to do it."

This project also ties in with the city's work with the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce and the Historic Midtown Development Group toward revitalizing the downtown area. "This is just part of that effort as well - little things add up," Friend said. "It's such a neat project to be involved in."

"It's exciting to see that old brick exposed," agreed Lee. "I think there's a lot of history under there."