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Another Brick Street, Piece of Chicago History, Disappears

By Alisa Hauser | May 8, 2013 12:43pm
 Concord Place, a less than one block long street just west of Damen Avenue in Bucktown, was paved over with asphalt Friday.  Some residents say that the street, outside of alleys and portions of Bloomingdale Street, was one of the last brick streets in the neighborhood. 
Concord Place in Bucktown
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BUCKTOWN —  Brick by brick, history is being paved over — literally.

Concord Place, a block-long brick street just west of Damen Avenue in Bucktown, was resurfaced with asphalt Friday, burying yet another example of roadbuilding of an earlier era.

A city spokesman said it was unclear just how many brick streets are left in Chicago but a Bucktown civic leader said Concord was one of the last in the neighborhood.

Concord was paved following the completion of an underground water main replacement project that began in October.

"We've been a city since 1871 and are losing our historic identity little by little," lamented Steve Jensen, president of the Bucktown Community Organization.

Jensen said he believes that Concord Place — outside of alleys and portions of Bloomingdale Street beneath an elevated trail —  was one of the last brick streets in the neighborhood.

Jensen said he was unaware that Concord Place was being resurfaced until a resident posted a photo of workers paving over the brick street on a Facebook neighborhood watch page.

"Looking back, it would have been nice to have known about it," he said, questioning why the city didn't pay to restore the street rather than paving over it.

Reactions to photographs of the paving process from neighbors included, "Bummer, I loved taking a shortcut off Damen into a quieter time" to simply "Booooo."

Deborah Colman, owner of Pavilion Antiques in Bucktown, described the paving as "so sad."

"It was always a beautiful street. We need that historic presence in a neighborhood to make it feel like a neighborhood," she said.

Brian Burrow, a former bartender at Cans at 1640 N. Damen Ave., which closed a few months ago and is adjacent to Concord Place, said the asphalting of the bricks is "a further example of where the neighborhood is heading."

"Remove all the character, whether it's a street or a building, and pave over it with an AT&T store or another bank," Burrow said.

Paul Sajovec, a spokesman for Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), said the resurfacing of Concord Place was necessary since the street had been torn up by construction in recent months.

The city Department of Water Management is responsible for restoring streets to after its projects are complete, Sajovec said.

While Concord Place looked like brick on the surface, Sajovec said it had actually been paved over with asphalt which had deteriorated over time to the point where a substantial amount of brick was showing.

"It's not a pristine brick street that they tore up. Once you've asphalted over a brick street you cannot return it to its original state unless you are willing to take the bricks out and chip out the asphalt," Sajovec said.

Donald Jackson, owner of The Color Wheel Studio at 2016 W. Concord Place, witnessed the resurfacing and said it took two days.

"I'm only happy in the sense that the city destroyed the street many years ago and it looked like an alley more than anything else.  Now [Concord] looks more like a street than an alley," Jackson said.

Sajovec said Waguespack is "sympathetic to the idea that there's a value in having brick streets" and said that there was a plan in 2010 to re-construct an all-brick street on Lister Avenue on the northern edge of Bucktown.

But Sajovec said "it was two and a half times more expensive" to restore the brick on Lister Street rather than use asphalt. As a compromise, they ended up resurfacing the street with asphalt and keeping original brick at both ends.

Pete Scales, a spokesman for CDOT, said that he has "never seen a figure on the number of brick streets" that remain in the city.

Similar to Concord Place, Sajovec said that at one point Bloomingdale Street, adjacent to an elevated trail, was also topped with asphalt though it's deteriorated too, giving some portions of it the appearance of a mostly brick street.

Jensen warned neighbors in Bucktown who were lamenting the loss of Concord Place's bricks that Bloomingdale Street — scheduled to be converted to a one-way westbound street in the portions of the 2.7 mile trail that pass through Bucktown — could be resurfaced soon.

"In a perfect scenario they would come along and rebuild that brick street with the money from the trail...I'm sure they can find a few hundred grand to fix parts of that street," Jensen said.

Sajovec said Jensen's idea "has merit if there is a way to get that done that leaves Bloomingdale with a well functioning street."

Scales said there are no plans to pave over Bloomingdale Street's bricks "in the immediate future."