The steep sidewalk outside Hazelwood's Elizabeth Pharmacy has been reduced to rubble ... thanks to an effort to beautify the neighborhood.
Painting the publicly funded mural on the Elizabeth Avenue building required a hydraulic lift, which broke up the asphalt sidewalk near the building's Second Avenue corner. Now a hearing will determine who'll pay to make the sidewalk passable again: the pharmacy, the public-art initiative that funded the mural, or the community-development group that helped broker the deal between the two.
"It's a big war zone, looking like a bomb went off," says neighbor Susan Garvin. The three-car-length section of sidewalk has been impassible since July. It is set off by orange plastic netting, traffic cones and a spray-painted "Keep Off" sign. Garvin, who uses a cane, says her neighborhood is home to many elderly people. Often, cars parked along that stretch of sidewalk force pedestrians to walk far out into the street.
"The main problem is that the site should have never been approved in the first place," says Kip Herring, the artist who painted the mural. City regulations require sidewalks to be made of concrete, he points out. Herring says the asphalt surface didn't start to break up until a week or two into painting the mural. By then, the damage was done, but the mural wasn't finished, so work continued. "The asphalt wasn't code, so who is at fault?"
The pharmacy owners say it isn't them, although property owners are typically responsible for adjacent sidewalks. On March 10 the owners, Sanford Darling and his wife, Carole, filed a suit with district judge James Hanley seeking $8,000 "for damage done to plaintiff's sidewalk." The suit names as defendants the Sprout Fund, which funded the mural, and Hazelwood Main Street, a nonprofit community-development group that helped bring the mural to the building.
The Sprout Fund offered to replace the asphalt, but "Our spec for the city is concrete sidewalks," explains Ben Carlise, public-space management administrator for the city. Asphalt is "definitely less expensive," he adds.
Both the Sprout Fund and Sanford Darling declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Jim Richter, executive director of the Hazelwood Initiative (of which Hazelwood Main Street is one project), says his group shouldn't even be part of the suit, since it isn't part of the mural contract in the first place. All the Hazelwood group did, says Richter, is introduce the parties to each other.
"You just want to move on to the next successful project," Richter says. And guess what? It's another mural, recently approved by the Sprout Fund for another yet-to-be-determined Hazelwood location.
That mural is slated to begin later this year. A hearing to settle the current mural dispute is set for May 3.