A second location of the Bicycle Cellar will not be coming to Maricopa County’s Security Building in downtown Phoenix as previously planned because the building is a valuable asset as office space to the county, county officials said.
The owners of the nonprofit found out mid-May they would not be able to use the Security Building on Central Avenue and Van Buren Street, said Maricopa County Sustainability Manager Jonce Walker.
Bicycle Cellar, located at Forest and Fifth streets in Tempe, is a place for bike commuters to safely store their bikes, Walker said. Only members who have key card access can enter outside business hours. There are showers, lockers, a mechanic and snacks provided.
“It’s a one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to bike to work,” Walker said.
Bicycle Cellar had been working with the county since August 2011 to use the Security Building.
Bicycle Cellar was given a tentative approval at a county facilities meeting to explore the project, said Cari Gerchick, communication director for Maricopa County.
County Manager Tom Manos said one of the main reasons the county decided not to move forward with the project was that the Security Building is a valuable resource.
“We have a lot of need for office space,” Manos said. “We could move people into that space. If we were going to move something else into that space, we would need to make sure it was going to provide something for the county.”
Manos said the county already provides showers for employees and to build showers in the Security Building would make it difficult to convert the space back into offices if Bicycle Cellar didn’t make it after a year or so.
Manos said because it’s a county building and property, he has to do what is best for the county and that he wants the county to primarily benefit from the service.
John Romero, who directs the Bicycle Cellar along with Joseph Perez, said he thinks the county has specific plans other than Bicycle Cellar for the space.
“I know Tom Manos has done a lot of good for the county and he has taken on a lot of huge projects,” Romero said. “So I think Tom may have a plan for that space and it’s not our place to compete with that. We’re a small project that would rely on county funding.”
Gerchick said the county never received a business plan or formulated ideas on the nonprofit’s logistics.
“We never got beyond the idea stage to the actuality stage – how much it would cost for implementation, hours, how it would be staffed,” Gerchick said.
Manos said Bicycle Cellar did not submit a demand study that outlined how many county employees would utilize the facility.
Gerchick said the county never received explicit numbers of how much money Bicycle Cellar would need from the county’s budget either. She said she heard numbers from $2 million to $10 million.
Romero said they met all the requirements the county told them about.
“We just got blindsided,” Romero said. “My last conversation with the county was that we should talk about our contractual obligation. We kind of left it in their court.”
Romero said they submitted a copy of their existing contract with Tempe to the county and a copy of their Tempe budget, which they were going to emulate. They also submitted a projection based on square footage and a 3-year budget.
“(The county) never officially requested anything,” Romero said. “They would ask us for something and we would do it. Who knows if it went across the right desks or not. I know we were meeting the criteria on our end and we never heard anything.”
Manos said he was concerned about a lack of demand for Bicycle Cellar’s services because there are already some places with similar services.
“I know the YMCA is right across the street and is probably even closer to the light rail stop. They obviously have showers and lockers,” Manos said. “It’s not the same as the Bicycle Cellar, but it seemed to at least contain some of the same features.”
Gerchick said the project might be better prepared to move forward in the future if the facts and figures are there, but it didn’t get pulled together in time for the upcoming budget cycle.
“Lots of ideas are proposed and those that have the substance behind them – those get adopted,” Gerchick said.
Walker said Bicycle Cellar would be an asset to the city of Phoenix.
“It would be a huge statement from a sustainability standpoint because it would be saying we care about bikes and want to support a healthier mode of transportation,” Walker said. “It really makes me quite sad that it’s not going to go forward because of all the huge positive things that would have happened. It would have made a big statement.”
Walker said he would encourage Bicycle Cellar to continue looking for another Phoenix location.
“I think Phoenix really needs a service like this and to not have a service like this seems silly,” Walker said.
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