Crews with Vessels Construction started site preparations this week for a series of infrastructure improvements to Chestnut Street in Denison. These projects will ultimately see the historically brick roadway rebuilt as a modern concrete street from Fannin Avenue to Austin Avenue.

Construction crews started removing bricks from the roadway Wednesday morning and are expected to continue for the next few days, Denison Development Services Director Gabe Reaume said Wednesday. By clearing the site now, Reaume said the crews are preparing to work on the first phase of work — a water main replacement — beginning on Dec. 14.

“What we are shooting for is to have one lane of traffic open at a time,” Reaume said, describing the construction process.

Crews are expected to work on the south side of the roadway first and leave the northern lane accessible to through traffic.

The idea of replacing the bricks on Chestnut Street was first discussed in 2015 as a water project to replace the failing water line. With each repair to the water line, cuts were made in the top layer of the roadway. Over the years, this practice left the street as a mixture of brick pavers, concrete and asphalt from the various repairs.

As the project moved forward, city leadership ultimately decided to replace the roadway alongside the water line project. The decision to use a concrete surface was due to cost. City Manager Jud Rex said in September that if the city wanted to use brick, it would likely double the $1.56 million budget for the project.

“All things yield to the budget and this is what we can afford,” Reaume said in October.

Despite initial concerns about the brick removal and the road’s part in Denison’s heritage, Reaume and Main Street Director Donna Dow said they have not received much comment from the public on the project in recent weeks.

As a part of the project, bricks from the original roadway will be used as a decorative element in the intersection of Chestnut and Burnett. This will be designed to mirror a similar motif used at the intersection of Crawford Street and Burnett along Touchdown Alley. In late August and September, volunteers helped gather, sort, clean and store more than 12,000 bricks from the roadway for this part of the reconstruction project.

However, given the age and mixed conditions of the bricks, not all the bricks are the same shape and size, Reaume said, This will require crews to mix and match when they work to use these bricks in the new design, he said.

“I think the integrity is still there and it is going to match,” he said.

Reaume said the bricks harvested by Vessels crews will be sold by the Denison Rotary Club as a fundraising project. The funds raised will be donated by the club to the city to help finance improvements and new playground equipment in Forest Park. Earlier this year, the club donated $50,000 toward its goal of contributing $100,000 for the project.

Reaume said the work on Chestnut Street represent only a small part of the improvements the city will see to its road infrastructure in 2017. With more than $2 million in street improvements, overlay work and other projects this spring, Reaume said the City Council is renewing its focus on street infrastructure.

“I think this project is really the tip of the iceberg regarding streets this spring,” he said.