The remains of an old perimeter wall from the early 1900s have fallen in greater disrepair in the past few years. The 860-foot structure is bulging in some areas and have been completely comprised in other areas. The wall spans the rear of eight properties from Hunter Road to the south end of the Emerald Lake subdivision. Pictured is a compromised section of the wall on June 25, 2020, just south of the Emerald Lake subdivision. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
Photo: Michael D. Pitman
Photo: Michael D. Pitman

Fairfield considering fate of old stone wall that could cost up to $500K

Fairfield invested $2,500 in a visual structural analysis of the wall along Pleasant Avenue by Kleingers Group, a civil engineering and survey company. They gave three options for saving the wall, which could cost between $100,000 and just under $500,000. Mayor Steve Miller recommended doing only safety updates in order to invest as little money as possible because of the “good possibility” it will be removed.

The Kleingers analysis is common within local governments looking at spending potentially large amounts for projects. The Butler County Commission is spending $37,000 for a restoration study as part of a $2.2 million restoration for the Butler County Historic Courthouse. These relatively small investments give local leaders a clearer picture of which path to take, which outlines pitfalls and a return on investment.

RELATED: Plan to save Historic Courthouse gets $37K jolt from Butler County commissioners

The wall, which is believed to have been built in the early 1900s as a perimeter wall for a single home, runs behind eight properties that back Pleasant Avenue from Hunter Road north next to the Emerald Lake subdivision. About half to two-thirds of the 860-foot wall is not visible from Pleasant Avenue, and many of the unseen areas have been structurally compromised over time.

“I just hate us see us spend any money on something like this and in five years we might say, ‘Hey, we got to tear all this down and start over,’” said Miller, saying he does like to see preservation when possible, “but you have to be practical, too.”

The plan is for Pleasant Avenue to be widened to as many as four or five lanes in five to 10 years, said Public Works Director Ben Mann.

“I’m not sold on doing too much with that (wall) right now because you don’t know what the future holds,” he said.

The stone wall has transformed from a perimeter wall to a retaining wall in some areas, which Kleingers engineer Mike Brunner said is not good. The wall was likely at the same grade when it was built, he said. But yards likely were raised when the Parliament Hill subdivision was built in the 1970s, and Pleasant Avenue was raised — as much as 10 to 12 feet in some areas — as it was built. And since likely has no footing, it’s leaning or bulging either east or west in various spots of the wall.

Fairfield Development Services Director Greg Kathman said he likes to see historic and older features maintained, but said, “The time to do it correctly was when the subdivision was built and designed (40 years ago).”

Mann said this section of Pleasant Avenue sees more than 19,000 a day, according to the last Ohio Department of Transportation count in 2019.

“Ultimately, we would want that to be three, four or five lanes, and definitely (include) a sidewalk or multi-use path,” Mann said. “That kind of a project would likely when we would have to address wiping out this wall at this point or doing some major effort to try to save it.”

Widening Pleasant Avenue would be an estimated $12 million project — a price tag that would increase in five to 10 years, city officials said — and require outside funding.

Council has advised staff to put any funds for safety improvements in next year’s capital improvement program for consideration.

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