Tackling CTA Grime Rate: Rider Offers Free Cleanup at L Stop

(Featured in Chicago Sun-Times – By Micheal Gillis)

About 2,000 CTA riders trudge through the Howard L line’s Lawrence station every day, but few besides Mike Pavilon are likely to appreciate, let alone recognize, what they’re trudging on.

The average rider sees only a grimy station, one that could hardly be listed among the CTA’s bright spots. But as he was using the station one day last January, Pavilon looked past the grime and saw what he calls “an interesting and invaluable piece of terrazzo,” a type of floor made of a mix of marble and mortar.

Pavilon, who lives nearby and uses the 73-year-old station two or three times a week, owns a company that restores such floors. And while he was standing on the platform waiting for a train, he decided to make the CTA an offer it couldn’t refuse, but, as it turns out, one it couldn’t quickly accept either.

He offered to clean and polish the floor “probably a $1,700 job” for free.

“I was sick and tired of walking through a filthy station,” said Pavilon, who owns Sungloss Marble Maintenance Co. “I said, this isn’t right, maybe I can make it look better.”

The CTA, routinely described as cash-strapped, jumped at the chance to get something for nothing. Better make that lurched at the chance, because even pro bono offers have to clear a variety of legal and insurance hurdles. Pavilon said he talked to eight people and filled out several pages of forms.

The paper work taken care of, Pavilion now has to wait for other repair at the station to be completed before he starts on the floor. Those repairs are expected to he finished soon, a CTA spokeswoman said.

Pavilon, whose company has restored floors at the Chicago Theatre and the Auditorium Theater, knows his offer can he viewed as a gimmick to get more business. But he said that’s not why he did it.

“I’d like the station to look better,” he said. “When your house is clean when you come home, it feels better than when it’s dirty. It’s the same way, with your CTA station. You want it to be nice, and it feels better when it is.”

CTA President Robert Belcastcr praised Pavilon’s offer, saying it exemplifies the type of local involvement lie hopes to solicit for other CTA stations. In fact, Belcaster said, the agency is making plans to hand over control of some stations and CTA-owned retail spaces to community groups. “They would improve them and lease them out,” he said. “They would take on the responsibility.”

Incidentally, the CTA plans to close the Lawrence station for six months later this year to repair a nearby retaining wall. And the Wilson station, just one stop south, will be completely rehabilitated this year, although it will remain open during the work.