A group of Georgetown neighbors is paying the city to replace the old concrete sidewalk on the south side of the 3100 block of O Street NW with red bricks.
All 13 residents on the south side of the street have paid a total of $1,976 to the city for the work, which began Monday.
"It's mainly for esthetic and historic resons," said John R. Wagley, who negotiated the unusual arrangement with the city and organized the unanimous support of his neightbors to finance the work.
"All of the sidewalks in Georgetown were once brick. Then the city started about 40 yearsago putting in this concrete, and the concrete is all different colors. You get a patchwork of grays and browns," Wagley explained.
Many Georgetown residents had wanted to return their sidewalks to the traditional bricks. This spring the O Street residents saw their chance when the Washington Gas Light Co. tore up about a third of their sidewalk to install a new gas main, Wagley said.
Then the city decided to replace roughly another third of the walkway because it had fallen into disrepair.
With that much sidewalk to be replaced and paid for by others, Wagley, a Georgetown resident for 15 years, convinced his neighbors to chip in and pay the city to tear up the remaining good section of the walk and replace it all with brick.
"We did it to satisfy the public," said Donald Leming, assistant maintenance engineer with the transportation department's bureau that oversees the maintenance and construction of city streets, bridges and sidewalks.
"There is an awful lot of brick in Georgetown and we have no objections to it," Leming said. Bothe Leming and Wagley said brick sidewalks are no more expensive than concrete ones - both cost $26 a square yard to install.
Residents of any city block can and have requested brick sidewalks, Leming said. But the Georgetown block is unusual because "they came up with the money," he said.
The city will consider a request only if a portion of a block is torn up by a utility company or the city intends to replace the walkway.
Christ Episcopal Church, at the corner of 31st and O streets NW, paid $840 of the total amount, Wagley said, because so much of its property fronts on the block's sidewalk.
The remaining amount was divided equally among the other residents. Each was intially assessed $70, but four residents with driveways cutting through the sidewalk paid more because these installation costs are $36 a square foot, Wagley said.
In addition, the city pays only for that portion of the sidewalk nine feet inside the curb. If a property does not meet the sidewalk at the point, then the owner must pay for the remainder of the walkway to his property line, Wagley said. Since some sidewalks in the block are wider than nine fee, that also added to some of the residents' expenses.
Two years ago the Museum of African Art, 316 A St. NE, successfully bargained with city to replace the broken concrete sidewalk from its property to Fourth Street with bricks - after the museum contributed the bricks.
While the Georgetown residents are paying for their sidewalk, the citizens association at Dupont Circle wants to give the National Park Service $1.200.
The donation would pay for a memorial the citizens group wants located in the park in the circle to honor two of their members who died this year - Ida Fox, their long-time zoning expert and watchdog, and historian Ronald Alvarez.