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Portland Moves to Fix ‘Very Uneven’ Cobblestones on 2 Streets

People who work in the area said improvements can be made as long as they don't alter the aesthetic they say many who come to Portland love

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You may be one of the many visitors who has snapped pictures of charming cobblestone byways in the Old Port of Portland, Maine.

Now, the city is trying to make that walk a bit easier by fixing bricks, pavers and stones on Wharf and Dana streets.

"If you walk down there right now, it's very uneven," said Chris Branch, director of Portland's Public Works Department. "We've got problems with deterioration of the sidewalks."

The area, described by locals as "unique" and the "heart of the Old Port," was not necessarily meant at the outset for walking, especially Wharf Street, which was originally an alley.

"Forty years ago, there were no businesses on those alleys," Branch said. "The property owners opened up those spaces and it's created a different demand for the street."

Even as a debate about its future continues, a city-owned lot in Portland, Maine, with a lot of local and tourist foot traffic is getting a make-over.

That's the reason the city has allocated, to start, hundreds of thousands of dollars and hired a landscape architect to come up with different proposals to improve the two streets and make them more ADA compliant.

Options on Wharf Street would be focused on improving jagged pavers and brick sidewalks.

Dana Street, which is now open to two-way vehicular traffic as well as pedestrians, could see more significant modifications, including a change to a one-way street or a transformation into a pedestrian mall, "like Church Street in Burlington, Vermont," according to Branch.

To figure out what the roads should look like after a rehab, the city is planning to hold a meeting to get public input.

One had initially been scheduled in 2019 until it was cancelled due to a snow event. The meeting is expected to be rescheduled for later this month.

On Thursday, people who work in the area said improvements can be made as long as they don't alter the aesthetic they say many who come to Portland love.

"I think the aesthetic charm is important but life safety is something you have to look at, too," said Chris Grimm, who works a street over. "I've watched people walk it in high heels, it's not the easiest thing."

Others hope for minimal change, like contractor Bob Pitre, working on a renovation of a restaurant space that will become an Italian eatery.

"I love the cobblestone streets of Portland," Pitre said. "I don't think they should change it at all and if they're going to renovate the stones just maybe fix them a little."

The timeline for any repairs is still fluid and is not set in stone.

An exact date for the public meeting on the street improvements had not been set as of Thursday.

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