-by Historic Preservation Advocate Sarah Marsom

Let’s talk about how you can work with me to create a plan to improve German Village’s brick sidewalks.  The German Village Society’s strategic plan revealed that maintaining sidewalks and a walkable neighborhood was something of utmost importance for stakeholders.

This year, the Society will begin understanding the best repair and maintenance options for the neighborhood and work with you to create an implementation strategy.  Please take a five–minute, multiple-choice survey on sidewalks to provide me greater input on how you would improve the neighborhood’s sidewalks.  Do you have additional feedback, which cannot be contained in a survey?  Call me at 221-8888 or email  smarsom@germanvillage.com.


At 32.5%, Streets and Sidewalks is the No. 1 improvement respondents wanted in German Village.  Segregated in comments specific to Sidewalks or Streets, at 20.2% Sidewalks would still rank as the single most common concern; Streets at 16% is the second-most common concern.  From interviews it became apparent that some residents, those with concrete sidewalks, did not realize that it was the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalks.  Long Term, 13.4% of respondents would like to see our streets and sidewalks improved, with more brick.  The Streets & Sidewalks become even more a priority when the results of Q4 “Why German Village?” are taken into account as 49.3% responded that the historic characteristics, of which our brick infrastructure is a significant component, is the reason they picked German Village.  Taking into account that 24.1% thought the walkability is an important feature of German Village re-enforces this issue as the top priority for German Village Society.

Question 6: What would you like to improve about GV?

87/268 want the Streets & Sidewalks improved

54/268 specifically mentioned the Sidewalks

43/268 specifically mentioned the Streets

2 of the 83 comments did not want brick

Typical or Notable comments:

  • Fix the dang sidewalks and streets!
  • Repair all sidewalks, make them all brick.
  • Probably more brick street repairs…with brick!
  • Improve and uncover brick streets.
  • The Streets and curbs need attention – the city hasn’t reset a brick in years.  All the construction and heavy trucks impact the smoothness of riding on the brick.  The construction folks make their money and leave.  We are stuck with the bumpy roads and brick sidewalks falling into the street.
  • Sidewalks need work in places where bricks and concrete are uneven.  Some of this is quaint and fits the neighborhood but some is dangerous especially in winter.
  • Some of the alleys cleaner.  Potholes fixed in a timely manner.  No more people going through my trash or a need to lock my back gate.

Alternative Viewpoints:

  • I would like to get rid of the brick streets, but I’m probably the only person here who feels that way.
  • Cobblestone at crosswalks ONLY.

Suggestions or Recommendations for Action: 

  • Re-lay uneven brick streets.
  • Streets and curbs.  No other historical district that I have been to and spent considerable time in have worse streets and curbs.  Within 2 minutes of the Meeting Haus streets and curbs are a disgrace. The City and the Commission should be held accountable as well as the GVS.
  • Encourage residents to improve sidewalks to reduce risk of injury from falls and PLEASE have people clear sidewalks in winter. As it is now, most people seldom clear them and, as a result, venturing out of one’s front gate puts life and limb in danger.

Question 7: If you can imagine GV 10 years from now, what would you like to see?         

36/268 Long term concern is streets & sidewalks

9 specifically mentioned more brick

Typical comments:

  • A historically accurate but still relevant place to live with modern amenities for comfortable living. Brick streets and gardens imparting charm.
  • More brick walks and streets and a few more shops.
  • More brick sidewalks, fewer visible satellite dishes and trash cans, more consistent landscaping, more restaurants and less offices.
  • Every sidewalk improved to perfection, Third Street has more businesses and restaurants, abundant parking available for residents and visitors.
  • All bricked streets, nice welcoming entrances.

Suggestions or Recommendations:

  • More code enforcement on blighted, unkempt properties, unrepaired sidewalks and driveway aprons.
  • One way streets in several locations. Several streets are too narrow to be two way and traffic flow and in some cases additional parking could be improved.
  • Better brick streets without big bumps!
  • People driving slower on Third Street.

Question 12:   What initiatives do you think that the GVS should focus its resources on?

35/249 responded they wanted the GVS to work on streets & sidewalks

Notable Comments:

  • The Society has accomplished many things.  I would like to see research done on a way to get grants to improve the infrastructure.  (e.g.:  leaning utility poles, dreadfully  unsafe sidewalks, negligent landlords and homeowners,  freeing the streets of curb debris which clogs the storm sewers because the city does not remove the  vegetation debris and most residence are too damn lazy to do it.)  Don’t care about signage or tourism and the like of that. Would like the area to actually look like the first-class neighborhood that it could be.
  • Improving the overall appearance of the neighborhood. Sidewalks are broken, streets are bad in some places.
  • Streetscape: brick streets, sidewalks and curbs very important going forward.
  • Streets and curbs and public safety.  Everyone who lives and visits the village sees the deplorable conditions of streets and curbs.
  • Getting Third street right. Improve Schiller Park, get city to enforce sidewalk repairs.
  • Keeping the old look.  Fixing the brick streets when needed.

Negative comments:

  • Improving the overall appearance of the neighborhood. Sidewalks are broken, streets are bad in some places, lawns are overgrown, many eyesore properties that need help. Make a community effort to improve the village.
  • I run in the street because sidewalks are too dangerous. My elderly relatives are afraid to walk the sidewalks because of all the hazards.

Suggestions or Recommendations:

  • Maybe invest in some smaller plows for the winter time to clear some of the more narrow streets and alleys.  Some tasteful wrought iron sculptures placed along Third would be nice.  Like Ashville, N.C.  Benches with people (sculptures) sitting on them, etc.
  • Crime prevention, lobbying for city resources to maintain curbs, streets, street signs, light fixtures, cross walks, etc., fostering civic pride


Initiative:        Improve condition of sidewalks in German Village with historically-sensitive repairs

Outline:          Many existing sidewalks are in disrepair and present safety and mobility issues.  Develop a program to change the mind-set of the property owners and City officials; and provide ways and means to make it easier for them to improve their sidewalks.

Goal:               Functional brick sidewalks throughout the village in 10 years

Suggested Board Action:      Charter the Historic Preservation Committee with the Sidewalk Project and to consider the following recommendations.


1.   Determine rules and regulations which can be used to encourage proper homeowner maintenance of sidewalks.

2.   Survey the village for the conditions of the sidewalks, ranking on a 5-point scale in terms of disrepair and unevenness.

3.   Target mailing campaign to properties with poor sidewalks.

4.   Raise funds to provide grants/no-interest loans to ten worse sidewalks on an annual basis for those who cannot afford repairs.

5.  Educate homeowners on methodologies, resources and city laws with regard to proper maintenance of sidewalk with seminars, brochures, N4N and direct mailings.

6.   Work with the city departments, where appropriate, to initiate enforcement on locations where owners fail to observe city codes etc.

7.   Create an on-going marketing campaign to highlight the issues and make having a sidewalk in disrepair unacceptable (similar to MADD).

8.   Develop list of contractors with cost estimates per yard of sidewalk.

9.   Work with the City to repair curbs and address tree issues that structurally impact resident’s sidewalks.

10. Advocate new city codes if existing codes are not sufficient to address the problem.

Respondent Suggestions:

  • Encourage residents to  improve sidewalks
  • Replace concrete sidewalks with brick sidewalks
  • More brick sidewalks
  • Get city to enforce sidewalk repairs. (I run in the street because sidewalks are too dangerous). My elderly relatives are afraid to walk the sidewalks because of all the hazards.
  • Make a community effort to improve the village
  • Serving as effective organization to promote the shared interests of GV residents (e.g.  get city or someone to fix the sidewalk hazards)
  • Can we work with city to better ID the right street trees as a step toward sidewalk repairs?
  • Need to improve sidewalks – could there be an easement to allow folks to invest in the improvements as a gift to GVS?
  • Have to fix sidewalks- we’d give to a fund that will improve the infrastructure that supports million-dollar homes/too much disconnect between individuals’ investments here and the infrastructure