Coventry Village SID is a catalyst for change

The Coventry Village Special Improvement District (CVSID) has had a big impact on Coventry Road in 15 years.

“Twelve years ago, professionals didn’t want to rent in Coventry,” said Lewis Zipkin, vice president of CVSID and property owner in the district. “Today, we get calls from around the world.”

The CVSID was formed in November 1996 when property owners noticed that Coventry was becoming a little rough around the edges.

“We chose to stay,” said Gary Biller, Coventry property owner and treasurer of CVSID. “The street has never looked better.”

In 2000, Zipkin was having lunch with the Cleveland Heights city manager at Tommy’s Restaurant when he learned that the city would be working with Cuyahoga County to repave Coventry Road. “I called Tommy [Fello] over and we began to talk about redoing the street, not just from curb to curb,” said Zipkin, “but from building to building.”

CVSID worked with an architect to develop plans for a new streetscape: add decorative planters, new sidewalks and curbs, and bury some of the overhead wiring. Street signs, benches and planters reflect the eclectic, hip vibe that Coventry Village has become known for, branding the street as a destination.

The project was primarily funded by the county, with assistance from First Energy. CVSID financed its portion of the project with a loan from the city for $400,000, at four percent interest, payable over 10 years. Special terms capped the amount paid by the SID each year to service the loan at $30,000. The city agreed to forgive any unpaid portion of the loan after the 10-year period.  

“It was a catalyst for change,” said Zipkin. “If the SID wasn’t organized, we couldn’t have taken advantage of the opportunity. The project saved the neighborhood from destruction and it attracted new retailers.”

Many longtime businesses have flourished and expanded. Bodega has a colorful new patio in the back, and the Grog Shop is adding one. Burgers-n-Beer, a family-oriented bistro with a primary location in Willoughby, Ohio, will open in August.

CVSID will have paid off its loan by the end of 2013 and will be able to direct additional dollars toward security and marketing programs.

Zipkin and other SID members said they are satisfied with the results of the curfew. “Families are back here. Families need to feel comfortable,” said Zipkin.

 “We are working together to come up with new ideas,” said Steve Presser, owner of Big Fun and marketing director for the SID. “We are a village. Almost every night there is something happening at Coventry.”

The CVSID is going through a renewal process this August, as it is required to do by law every five years. The SID’s board of directors held a special meeting in July to adopt a plan for public services and improvements. The plan and five-year budget were submitted to CH City Council, which reviewed it on July 16. The SID must now submit a petition to its membership, which must be signed by 60 percent (based on frontage) of property owners and then sent to council for approval. Once approved, the city will assess property owners to fund the SID.

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 5, Issue 8, Posted 11:26 AM, 08.01.2012