KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Beginning this spring, crews will be rebuilding historic Ransom Street in Kalamazoo. A key component of the work has to deal with bricks that have been used for more than a century.

“These have been out here 100 years but you see they’ve also had some wear over 100 years,” Kalamazoo city traffic engineer Dennis Randolph said. “There are low spots. There are patches.”

It’s what’s below the clay bricks that requires the most attention. Randolph explained that with water and sewer problems and patched concrete, the road needs an overhaul. Plus, the street will be a busy temporary detour during Kalamazoo Avenue’s portion of a $12 million traffic reconfiguration project.

“The problem is you can’t save a street like this if you’re putting in sewer and water. They’re too deep, they cause too much disruption,” Randolph said. “So that’s what’s leading to us having to take these out. We could just cut it down the middle and say, ‘Let’s fix it,’ (but) that wouldn’t work.”

Ransom Street in Kalamazoo. (March 7, 2023)
Ransom Street in Kalamazoo. (March 7, 2023)

At Monday night’s Kalamazoo City Commission business meeting, commissioners essentially gave the financial go-ahead for the Ransom Street project, approving an $849,000 professional service agreement with Abonmarche for the engineering and architecture.

As for the old bricks, nothing is set in stone, but there are some ideas. The city and partnering organizations like the Northside Association for Community Development are considering using the bricks for pedestrian safety measures, like bump out curb extensions.

“There’s a lot of people who are really looking at moving around without using automobiles — riding bikes, walking and being safe when they cross the street,” said NACD executive director Mattie Jordan-Woods.

Other ideas include building a kiosk explaining the Northside’s history.

“You’re doing the old and the new,” Jordan-Woods said. “The Northside Cultural Business District is set up to say, ‘Yes, you come across the tracks and still see great things.'”

What is for sure is the city and its neighborhoods are planning to keep the bricks around, maybe even for another century.

“They are good material. They’ve lasted 100 years. They’ve got more life in them,” Randolph said. “Sidewalks, bump outs, decorative things around the city… We can do a lot of things with the material.”

Construction on Ransom Street is scheduled to start this spring and finish by fall 2024. Randolph said the city is aware there could be some overlap between the Randolph Street project and the Kalamazoo Avenue reconfiguration.