At first blush, it sounds like a simple project: paint a champagne-colored stripe on the wall of a movie theater lobby. But as Jesse Truesdale will tell you, the devil is in the details. The owner of Cobb Theatres in Leesburg, Va., wanted a 3-inch by 280-foot ribbon of color painted 30 feet above the ground on the wall of the theater lobby, including the large, open stairwell that takes theater patrons from the ground-floor entrance to the second-floor lobby – a decorative detail moviegoers will see as they stand at the top of the long staircase, face the opposing wall and turn in a complete circle. Jesse, part owner, along with her husband Ben, of TrueBuilt, LLC, was tasked with making that stripe a reality on the theater wall.
Jesse likes a good challenge. Her company, a northern Virginia-based residential and commercial general contracting firm that provides construction and preconstruction services, including design and budgeting, tackles projects that other companies often turn down.
“We have a real passion for building, and we look for those projects that present interesting challenges,” she said. “The theater in Leesburg turned out to be such a challenge – one that the JLG compact crawler boom proved instrumental in helping us overcome.”
As she studied the project, Jesse realized her options were limited. “Leaning a ladder on the two staircase landings would not work, because the scale of the painting and the fact that the paint was being applied to a curved wall required that the painter be able to regularly step away from the wall and check the perspective.”
Scaffolding presented another option – a time consuming and expensive option, which, like the ladder, would not provide painters with the necessary perspective and would have required that the entire staircase be taken out of commission for the length of the project.
Jesse also considered using equipment to help reach the wall, but the building design is not conducive to moving equipment to the second floor. The small passenger elevator, located in a narrow corridor, and the freight elevator, located in a kitchen that offered little room to maneuver, could not handle heavy, bulky equipment. Removing windows to provide access to the second floor proved to be cost prohibitive. And so, the search began for a compact piece of aerial equipment that could move up a ramp built on top of the middle portion of the three-part staircase and provide access from the second floor, across the stairwell to the wall.
After renting a piece of equipment that appeared promising, Jesse and her team discovered it was unable to maintain the angle necessary to climb the ramp, moving only three feet up the structure before getting stuck. As luck would have it, a sales rep from another rental company visited the theater, noted the problem, and proposed the JLG X700AJ compact crawler boom as a solution.
“He had my attention at a critical moment, and after taking a look at the crawler boom, I was willing to give the machine a try,” recalled Jesse. A week later, the crawler boom was onsite and performing to expectations.
“We were able to secure a battery-operated model, which was a requirement, since I had no way of venting fumes to the outside,” said Jesse. “And it made it up the entire ramp without any problems. Despite the theater’s limited access, tight corners, and a variety of obstructions, including the bulkhead over the bar area, the crawler boom equipped us to get the job done.”
Without the compact crawler boom, Jesse is unsure how she would have completed the project.
The positive experience, although daunting in the beginning, has made her eager to put the machine to use in another project.
“From my experience, the crawler’s uses are unlimited,” she said. “I can see the value it would bring to projects in churches, theaters, auditoriums, gymnasiums – really any place that features peculiar or unusual spaces that are difficult to access – as well as more ordinary applications that require aerial work.
“Would I recommend the crawler to others? Oh, absolutely, without a doubt. It’s efficient, versatile, comfortable, and extremely easy to use. I feel empowered, and I can’t wait to find the next use for it.”