New Sidewalks to Make a More Walkable Cherrywood

An avid trail runner, I travel by my own two feet whenever possible. Nine years ago, when my husband and I were deciding where to relocate within Austin, walkability was a primary concern. We settled on Cherrywood, an established neighborhood in central east Austin, where three different grocery stores, numerous parks, banks, the public library, schools, restaurants, and a variety of theaters are all within walking distance.

Much of that walking, however, takes place in the road. Sidewalks are few, and existing ones are often broken and quite narrow. Still, the ambiance is great, thanks to large trees and mature landscaping beautifying and shading the streets I amble.

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Corner of Edgewood and Lafayette Ave. to be affected by new sidewalk project. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

This morning, John Eastman and Imad Salem strode purposefully down Lafayette Ave. Clad in neon yellow visibility vests, the two shepherded a group of Cherrywood neighbors from 32nd to 38 ½ Street; their mission, to explain the City of Austin’s upcoming sidewalk installation along Lafayette’s eastern curb.

10 Basic Facts Behind Cherrywood’s Sidewalk Project

City employees in neon traffic vests talk with Cherrywood neighbors about a sidewalk project on Lafayette Ave.
Imad Salem, far left, and John Eastman (in matching vest) spent an hour with Cherrywood neighbors to discuss and walk the upcoming sidewalk project. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

Eastman works for the City of Austin’s Public Works Department. As the project manager, he’s in charge of the big picture issues. Salem is an engineer with MWM Design Group and will be the project’s lead field engineer. It’s Salem who will work closely with individual homeowners on just how that sidewalk installation impacts their property.

Prior to the tour, Eastman and Salem provided some background information:

  1. This is a Quarter Cent Funds project, designated by Austin’s City Council and limited in scope.
  2. The project terminates at 32nd , not Manor Rd., due to lack of funding.
  3. Construction will start around the beginning of October 2016 and continue for some three months.
  4. During this time, the construction crew will lay approximately 100 ft. of sidewalk and driveway a day.
  5. To accommodate mature landscaping, sidewalks will abut the curb (called “back of curb” construction).
  6. Lafayette Ave.’s east side was chosen because that location had less impact than the west side.
  7. To comply with Americans with Disabilities Act, sidewalk width will be 5 ft. (with some exclusions) and head clearance must be 80 inches.
  8. Water meters will be relocated but not updated (that’s another department’s purview).
  9. Almost every driveway will be reconstructed for approximately 10 ft. to blend with sidewalk and make ADA upgrades.
  10. Bumping the sidewalk into the road will protect mature trees and their root systems.

 

City of Austin, Neighbors Work Together to Improve Cherrywood

Flower beds with agave and bulbs in front of older home in Austin's Cherrywood neighborhood.
Bulbs that have flowered for 50 years in these lovingly tended beds will need to be relocated by the homeowner prior to sidewalk construction. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

After discussing those basics, we moved down Lafayette, stopping to discuss particulars about each home within the project’s scope. It was a wonderful opportunity for those property owners to ask questions, though Eastman and Salem mentioned several times that they’d already spoken to various people.

Engineer Imad Salem shows possible placement of 6-inch concrete retaining wall.
Salem explains that this property owner can opt for a 6-inch concrete retaining wall between flat sidewalk and higher level of yard. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

Eastman explained that there’s not a definitive plan beyond the basic parameters. Why? Neighbors provide so much input into their particular situation that a set plan would be useless. The goal is to work the new sidewalk as seamlessly as possible into the existing landscaping. Areas where homeowners can affect project design are

  • slopes (grade the area or build 6-inch retaining wall?);
  • existing structures (making transitions to walkways, terraces, drains); and
  • items in right of way (ROW) the homeowner wishes to relocate.

That last bullet point is the most complicated. The work crew automatically removes and disposes of materials, shrubs, plants, and trees (those that are not to be saved) within the ROW. This includes landscape gravel, dying trees, and mature agaves and wax leaf ligustrums. However, large plants can be dug up and set aside for the homeowner to replant. Small plants, such as beloved bulbs or rose bushes, need to be removed by the homeowner in advance. While the crew will scoop up landscape gravel to set aside, it would become mixed with dirt, so that’s best done by hand prior to construction.

It’s crucial, however, that homeowners make these individual wishes known to Salem, the project engineer, in advance.

While it’s possible to make adjustments as late as the day of construction, Salem emphasized he’s eager to talk with homeowners as soon as possible. Eastman also pointed out that items within the ROW constructed without required permits (walkway lighting, for example) will not be replaced, though irrigation systems will be moved and repaired. He also suggested replacing items, such as decorative posts, after sidewalk and driveway construction are completed, so that the homeowner can choose the best possible location.

How Will Sidewalk Work Happen?

Mature crepe myrtles on Lafayette Ave. will be trimmed to make way for new sidewalk.
The 5-ft. sidewalks will require that branches be cut from these mature crepe myrtles on Lafayette Ave. Fortunately, the trees themselves will be saved. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

The project starts at the beginning of October (they didn’t have an exact date), and work will progress from 32nd toward 38 ½ St. Eastman predicts they will get to a house every day or two, but there’s flexibility in that schedule. “If you’re having an event at your home, like, say, a wedding reception,” he explained, “we’re not going to tear up your driveway that day.”

Again, communication with Salem, the detail guy, is key.

Salem explained that individual property owners will be notified in advance of work, especially those with water meters in the ROW. In this case, the City sends a plumber to flush the lines and shut off the water before relocating the water meter, and homeowners will be without service for about an hour. He also explained that driveway work necessitates street parking; though the concrete sets very quickly, homeowners will need to allow 24 hours of drying before utilizing their driveways.

Old oak trees next to Lafayette Ave. curb will push new sidewalk into the street.
Corner of Edgewood and Lafayette Ave. to be affected by new sidewalk project. Photo credit: Leah Nyfeler

I watched and listened to Eastman and Salem thoughtfully address neighbors’ particular concerns as we promenaded along Lafayette Ave. My fears of losing curbside beauties—Those gorgeous crepe myrtles! The cluster of old oaks at 3303! The magical poppy garden and neighboring vine-covered fence!—were soothed.

Between the City’s careful lot-by-lot consideration and Cherrywood property owners input, this upcoming sidewalk project will do much to provide access, calm traffic, increase visibility at intersections, and make walking in this lovely central neighborhood corridor even more enjoyable.

Do you live on Lafayette Ave., between 32nd and 38 ½ St.?

I took notes over particular houses as we passed, so post your question in the “Leave a Reply” section below and I’ll relay what was discussed.

If you’d like to reach out to Eastman and Salem, their cards are in the following photograph. They’d be happy to hear from you.

Business cards for City of Austin's John Eastman and Imad Salem with MWM Design Group.

And to read more about Cherrywood’s sidewalk project, click on these links:

City of Austin’s Quarter Cent Funding

Cherrywood Sidewalk Master Plan

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I’m a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I’ve come to learn it. In addition to my blog “Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life” at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

0 thoughts on “New Sidewalks to Make a More Walkable Cherrywood

    1. Hey, Teddy; the only issue discussed pertaining to 3303 and 3305 was that the sidewalk would bubble out into the street to keep those beautiful oak trees and single oak a bit further down Lafayette. The sidewalk will jut out at about 45 degrees, progress to accommodate the two section of trees, and come back in. I believe there will be no parking at the curb there, as the 5 ft. walk will narrow the street about the width of a parked car (this was mentioned as a transportation department issue). Hope this helps!

  1. Thanks Leah,

    Love the information here. Posting to see if anyone asked/he mentioned anything about potential residential parking permits.

    The reason I ask is that we all know that Lafayette is already pretty congested, especially as it gets closer to 38 1/2 and I can imagine it will continue that way with the narrowing of the street/addition of the sidewalk.

    Any insight there?

    1. Josh, the scope of the meeting was limited to the sidewalk project so no, this wasn\’t discussed. The only place where the road will be narrowed is near 3303 and 3305, where the sidewalk will bubble out to accommodate the cluster of oaks and single oak right at the curb. There will be no parking at that spot.

  2. Hi Leah!

    Thanks for doing this! Im at 3306 Lafayette and am interested how this would affect our property.

    Thanks!

    Caleb

    1. Hey, Caleb. 3306 is on the west side of Lafayette, so the sidewalk doesn\’t affect your property. That bump out to save the oak at 3305 will narrow the street just south of your house.

  3. Hi Leah! My wife and I live at 3403 Lafayette, and we are concerned about the double-whammy of the new sidewalk and the parking by permit on the northern end of 38 1/2. Do you know if we are going to lose our driveway (it is very short – our car would block the sidewalk), or do I need to contact Salem about that detail? Because if we do lose our driveway, and we get the extra congestion from the parking from the northern end of 38 1/2, parking might become an issue for us. Thanks for any info that you have – we love the community involvement in this neighborhood!

    1. Hi, Steve. All driveways are being upgraded, so none are taken away (if you have an existing driveway, the City will upgrade the first 10 ft. to fit with ADA-compliant new sidewalk). This project is completely separate from anything parking related, so I have no information to share. If you have more questions about your driveway, definitely contact Salem; parking questions should be directed to the Transportation Dept., I believe.

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