Coventry Village becomes unglued

Karl Benz of Downtown Cleveland Alliance checks the machine as CVSID's Jason Wanska operates the cleaning wand and Walberto Lemus, Tommy Fello and Steve Presser look on.

Coventry Village Special Improvement District (CVSID) is fed up with the unsightly gum and stickers that cover the sidewalks, benches, signs, trash cans and other surfaces in the district.

“It’s become an epidemic,” said Steve Presser, owner of Big Fun and active CVSID member.

In May, CVSID purchased a Dr. Gum machine, which uses steam heat and an environmentally friendly solution to remove gum, stickers, graffiti and other stubborn substances from public spaces, without damaging painted surfaces.

Tommy Fello, owner of Tommy’s restaurant, oversees the CVSID maintenance crew. He said CVSID had purchased the machine for $5,700, but would also need to purchase a portable generator, an industrial cart and a step ladder to enable CVSID’s crews to reach all areas of the district.

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) has been using the machine for two years to keep its streets clean. Karl Benz, training manager for DCA’s 25-person cleaning crew, came to Coventry on May 14 to show CVSID representatives how to use it.

“We’ve been using it more for stickers,” said Benz, “rather than gum, but it is effective for both and also removes some graffiti.”

Benz cleaned a small patch of sidewalk in front of Tommy’s restaurant, and then turned his attention to the trash can, which had several stickers on it. Jason Wanska and Walberto Lemus, members of the CVSID cleaning crew, then took charge of the machine to clean stickers off one of the district’s unique benches. The final demonstration project the crew completed was removing several stickers from a pedestrian-crossing sign.

Fello said CVSID would consider sharing the machine with other business districts in the Heights once its crew was comfortable operating it. “We would provide it as a package,” he said, “We’d provide the machine, labor and cleaning solution for one price, once we know what our operating costs are.”

Fello said CVSID also plans to purchase a hydraulic broom for its plow, which would enable it to brush snow from neighborhood sidewalks, and that it would probably ask nearby property owners to chip in to help cover the costs.

“We are a walkable neighborhood,” he said. “We want to keep our district accessible in all kinds of weather, and make it a pleasant place to shop.”

Deanna Bremer Fisher

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

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Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 12:41 PM, 05.30.2014