Despite the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday, city contractors were working Monday to pave over historic bricks on Hayne Street in Pensacola’s Old East Hill neighborhood.
The historic brick street was uncovered in August as part of the city’s ongoing $30 million street resurfacing projects. But Mayor Ashton Hayward’s office made the decision to again pave over the historic bricks despite a 2016 city council resolution which specifically calls for uncovered brick streets to be preserved and restored.
It’s not immediately clear why the city chose to move forward with the repaving on the holiday. Pensacola City Hall was closed for the holiday and officials did not respond to a request for comment.
The Old East Hill Property Owner’s Association voted unanimously in September to support restoration of the brick street, but City Administrator Eric Olson informed residents that the city would move forward with repaving the street anyway as there was “no money available.”
“We are disappointed that there has been no formal public discussion of this issue by the City and no public weighing of the costs and both benefits and tradeoffs of brick versus asphalt streets,” neighborhood association president Christian Wagley said at the time. “In fact, there has been no specific cost estimate provided of the restoration of the brick street or what the restoration process would involve.”
Contractors have uncovered several brick or wood-paved streets during the months-long resurfacing project. Each time, Hayward’s office has directed that the historic streets be paved over rather than preserved. In August, contractors quickly uncovered then repaved a lengthy section of Guillemard Street, despite city policy which requires the city to notify residents at least 8 weeks before historic streets are paved over.
The 2016 policy wasn’t the first time that city officials recognized the value of brick streets. In 2002, the city restored brick streets along two blocks of both Barcelona and West Gadsden streets at a cost of $2,000 per block. While asphalt resurfacing is typically less expensive than restoring a historic brick street, studies have shown that brick streets last much longer with substantially less maintenance.
In Pensacola, there are brick streets in use that are more than 100 years old, while the average asphalt street lasts an average of just 15 years, city officials said.