Bor­ough to pave road

Church Av­enue makeover: Of­fi­cials have de­bated cob­ble­stone al­ley­way’s fu­ture for three years

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

PHOENIXVILLE » Some con­sider Church Al­ley, or Church Av­enue de­pend­ing on who you ask, a charm­ing ves­tige of a by­gone era in a town trad­ing on its his­tory and his­toric ar­chi­tec­ture.

To oth­ers, it is a dan­ger­ously out­dated rem­nant made even more so in the rain, sleet and snow.

Public opin­ion on whether to pull out the Bel­gian block cob­ble­stones and repave it in the con­ven­tional way is split about 50-50, ac­cord­ing to Bor­ough Coun­cil Pres­i­dent James Ko­valeski.

Af­ter what Coun­cil­man Jonathan Ewald said Sept. 11 has been three years of pre­var­i­cat­ing, it was time for coun­cil to act, but not be­fore those who want the street pre­served the way it is had one more chance to have their say.

Daniel Dono­hue told coun­cil he moved back to Phoenixville af­ter grad­u­at­ing high school sev­eral years ago and is de­lighted to see how it has re­vi­tal­ized. It’s lit­tle things like the cob­ble­stones on Church Al­ley, as the road sign says, or Church Av­enue, as the coun­cil agenda calls it, that add to Phoenx­iville’s charm, he said.

“It’s part of our his­tory and it should be pre­served,” Dono­hue said. “Some things are worth pre­serv­ing and hand­ing on to the next gen­er­a­tion.”

“Phoenixville is pop­u­lar, due to pocket parks, strong civic in­volve­ment, cute al­leys and a sense of his­tory,” res­i­dent Karl Bu­cus said. “That 150 feet of road­way is a sym­bol, a sig­ni­fier of how we want to do de­vel­op­ment mov­ing for­ward.”

Cathy Ing­ham ques­tioned whether the $34,000 it will cost to pave the oneblock street be­tween Bridge and Prospect streets and whether the $150,000 cost for the op­tion of pre­serv­ing the road as it is was en­tirely ac­cu­rate.

“This was dif­fi­cult to bid on,” she said not­ing that there was only one bid­der, Charlestown Paving. She ar­gued that with the use of grants, the cur­rent ar­range­ment could be re­ha­bil­i­tated for less than the new paving will cost.

But Bor­ough Man­ager E. Jean Krack said the 12-per­cent grade on the road made it un­likely Pen­nDOT would al­low any grants to be used. He too ex­pressed sur­prise there was only one bid for the project.

How­ever, he pointed out, the cob­ble­stones will not be lost but rather stored for use else­where in the bor­ough. He said they have al­ready been moved once be­fore, in the 1930s when they were re­moved from the lead in to a pre­vi­ous ver­sion of the Gay Street bridge.

His plan, which was also ap­proved by bor­ough coun­cil, is to have the bor­ough’s traf­fic con­sul­tant’s McMa­hon As­so­ci­ates, re­use the cob­ble­stones in a new streetscape de­sign for the in­ter­sec­tion of ei­ther Church and Main streets, or Church and Gay streets, or both.

Both in­ter­sec­tions would give the cob­ble­stones higher vis­i­bil­ity than they have now, and would also be on flat­ter in­ter­sec­tions, re­mov­ing the safety as­pect of hav­ing them on a 12 per­cent grade, he said.

Coun­cil­woman Cather­ine Do­herty said Krack’s idea “is a lovely plan. The block was moved from Gay Street about 100 years ago, I would like to see it used where peo­ple will ac­tu­ally see it,” she said.

Coun­cil­man Ed­win Soto said he has mixed feel­ings on the ques­tion, but said as it looks now, the cob­ble­stone street “is not very charm­ing.”

“This is­sue has weighted on all of us, and with the public, judg­ing by the amount of in­ter­ac­tion we’ve had with them over this,” said Ko­valeski. “But we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to take ac­tion.”

The ac­tion they took was to vote 7-1 to move for­ward with award­ing the bid, re­mov­ing the cob­ble­stones and hav­ing the road paved. Coun­cil­woman Dana Du­gan pro­vided the only no vote. Du­gan also pro­vided the only vote against hav­ing McMa­hon move for­ward with a streetscape plan that will re-use the cob­ble­stones at one or both of the other in­ter­sec­tions.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Brick has been in­laid be­tween the cob­ble­stones and the curb on Church Al­ley.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Many of the cob­ble­stones on Church Al­ley, par­tic­u­larly along the edge, are loose.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Phoenixville res­i­dent Cathy Ing­ham told bor­ough coun­cil she be­lieves, with grants, would be cheaper to re­ha­bil­i­tate Church Al­ley with the cob­ble­stones, than to re­move it and repave it.

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