Concrete sidewalks can become an addition to the streetscape rather than just a gray strip that contributes nothing to the experience. Replacing the entire sidewalk is usually not feasible. We tried something new that uses the existing sidewalk as the framework and only replaces a uniform area that can be easily removed and filled to create a classy, customized feature.
The concrete section of sidewalk that is removed is replaced with concrete unit pavers to give the sidewalk a customized look that can be color coordinated with the adjacent structures. In this case we also choose a color range that coordinates with the paver colors and patterns on Main Street–the adjacent cross street. The colors selected for Main and the pattern was designed to compliment the historical setting of this part of downtown Houston. Matching that pallet assured us of adding something that looks like it was part of the grand scheme.
To make the addition not look like something plugged into a hole sawed out of the concrete the saw cuts were in the tool joints. The saw cuts are made all the way through the sidewalk (nominally 4.5″ in Houston) so the panel can be lifted out leaving a clean concrete face with one side of the tool joint to provide a rounded, color neutral edge that shows no evidence of any recent work.
The dirt below was excavated to 4″ below the bottom of the existing sidewalk and a new reinforced slab poured in that space up to the necessary elevation for the bottom of the paver’s sand bed. The next day the sand bed can be placed and pavers laid. As you can see we used a soldier course around the perimeter of the space.
The sidewalk in these images was about 9 years old. Because of them being new and the street scape rebuilt back then the area is now in the center of a busy day and night scene. The sidewalks we added then with a limited budget could better contribute to the current environment with something to set them apart form standard gray sidewalk. I think we found the good solution.
I like to think this contributes to place making as this block now has another unique feature in downtown. We can repeat the technique in other sidewalks using different color pallets and emphasis the difference in that place while maintaining a sense of the larger place; i.e. downtown.
Credit for pushing the idea goes to Dennis Greer of the Houston Downtown Management District. Brett DeBord worked with the contractor to make it come out looking great and I got to help, approve the payments and write this post.