"In Atlanta, the person who thinks anything at all of the kind of sidewalk he walks on must be impressed by the large extent of walk made up of flat hexagonal concrete tile," a cement industry trade journal in 1909 reported. "And the person who does not ordinarily think of such things also will soon become conscious of the fact that he is traveling over an easy and smooth pavement."
As Candler Park residents and folks who live in other Atlanta intown neighborhoods know, many of our historic sidewalks are no longer smooth and not so easy to walk along. If you're pushing a baby stroller or trying to navigate with a wheelchair, you're oftentimes forced to walk in the street because many segments of our sidewalks are in disrepair.
The number one item on a 2010 "Community Wish List" prepared to guide the completion of the Candler Park Master Plan was "fix the sidewalks." According to the Master Plan document approved by the neighborhood earlier this year, "In much of the neighborhood, sidewalks are non-existent or in extremely poor condition. Broken sidewalks, gaps in the sidewalks and buckled pavement are common on many streets."
Tree roots create much of the damage to Candler Park's sidewalk. Photo by David Rotenstein.
Our sidewalks contribute to our neighborhood's character and sense of place, yet they remain a vexing problem for residents and planners. One way to provide some visual continuity with the past has been to replace damaged sidewalk pavers with poured concrete that has been scored to resemble the historic pattern found throughout the city.
Walking through the neighborhood, I've wondered how individuals and the city's public works employees approach the challenges our sidewalks present. The day after Christmas I encountered an Atlanta Department of Watershed Management crew finishing a section of sidewalk just poured where underground pipe work recently was completed.
I stopped and talked to the crew as they were finishing for the afternoon. "Any time they come out and tear anything up, it’s up to us to put it back together," explained Watershed worker Grady Broughton. "We put back what the neighborhood and stuff is used to."
Metal patterns used to recreate the historic hexagonal patterns on Candler Park sidewalks.
Photo by David Rotenstein.
Broughton and his two coworkers showed us the metal patterns used to score the new sidewalks. One is a full hexagon and the other is a half hexagon. "It’s a lot more extra work. You’ve got to try to match them," he said."
I would have liked to have talked a little more but a family had just stopped to deposit some books in the Little Free Library next to the work zone and someone stepped into the wet concrete. It was the second time that day.
What do you think about our sidewalks and the ways to retain their charm while ensuring that Candler Park has a more user-friendly circulation network?