County committee approves plan for bike co-op in historic downtown building

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The Tempe-based Bicycle Cellar hopes to establish a bike co-op in Phoenix. The proposal has received support from all over the Valley, including from ASU and Arizona Public Service Co. (Cydney McFarland/DD)

The Maricopa County Facilities Review Committee approved on Thursday a proposal that could establish a full-time bike co-op downtown.

The Bicycle Cellar successfully jumped over the first of many hurdles when the FRC approved its business expansion to the first floor of downtown’s historic Security Building in Thursday’s meeting.

“This is a need for downtown,” Maricopa County Sustainability Manager Jonce Walker said. “It’s a need that will bridge multimodal transportation since it’s adjacent to Central Station, the hub of mass transit.”

The meeting was the Tempe-based bicycle-commuter facility’s fourth with the FRC over the proposed expansion.

The nonprofit Bicycle Cellar project plans include bicycle storage, renting, repair services, lockers and four showers for daily, monthly or yearly paying members.

The conversation was met with skepticism from some committee members because other proposals seemed to take precedence, in their perspective. However, Joy Rich, assistant county manager for the Regional Development Services Agency, encouraged the committee to come to a decision and expressed her gratitude for the patience.

“They have a tremendous thing going in Tempe,” Rich said. “It’s clear to me they’re on a path to success and expansion and that they need to go forward with their business plan.”

The Bicycle Cellar’s first business venture in Tempe at the corner of Fifth Street and Forest Avenue is at capacity in its 2,000 square feet of space, Walker said.

“This is not an economic engine by any means; this would be a goodwill project for the community,” he said.

The Bicycle Cellar project has received 35 letters of support from downtown and across the Valley, including ASU Downtown Alive! and the Downtown student government.

Ed Fox, chief sustainability officer for Arizona Public Service Co., has written a statement declaring he will subsidize any APS employee who wants to use this facility, Walker said.

Hotels also are interested in it because out-of-towners can store bikes there and have a possibility to rent with a bike co-op, he added.

ASU Downtown Alive! and USGD have been working closely with the Bicycle Cellar project since spring of 2011, according to ASU Downtown Alive! President Vaughn Hillyard.

Hillyard said discussions have taken place about a reduced student membership fee. He added that USGD has been looking for ways to help subsidize the fee so that students would only be required to pay approximately $20 to $30 annually, rather than the full membership cost.

“It would give students the opportunity to expand and explore downtown,” Hillyard said.

Many students living in the Taylor Place residence hall do not own cars, and the bike co-op could be another outlet of alternative transportation and a safe place for students to store their bikes, he said.

The Bicycle Cellar project plans to use only 3,500 square feet of the bottom floor’s north side in the Security Building, located on Central Avenue and Van Buren Street.

“That leaves space for something else to go in,” Walker said, explaining that the project will only take a small portion of the building compared with the approximated remaining 8,400 square feet of space.

The discussion was forced to open up to possible plans for the rest of the Security Building to come to a compromised solution.

Other proposals for the space included the Maricopa County Office of Legal Advocates, a business incubator, an ASU bookstore or Maricopa County Swing Space.

Because of the additional space the Bicycle Cellar will leave on the first floor, the committee is recommending the Maricopa County Office of Legal Advocates take the remaining space as well as the mezzanine.

ASU has shown speculative interest in assuming the rest of the first-floor space for a bookstore in the future.

The county has agreed to pay the approximated $220,000 in core and shell improvement costs for the space, but it is looking to the Bicycle Cellar to foot the remainder of an estimated total of $477,000, according to information released at Thursday’s meeting.

The committee suggested Walker to look into the Transportation Enhancement Application, grants and other additional funding.

“Extra funding is going to be a challenge,” Walker said. “It’s not to say it couldn’t happen, but it will be harder to do.”

The next step will be budget approval in the county’s 2012-13 fiscal year and approval from the elected officials, said Joseph Perez, co-owner of the Bicycle Cellar.

“It’s a nice result, but we still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

Contact the reporter at ahavir@asu.edu

Clarification: January 27, 2012

An earlier version of this article reported that Vaughn Hillyard, President of ASU Downtown Alive!, said they have discussed discounted student annual fees of approximately $20 to $30 with the Bicycle Cellar. Hillyard clarified that students would pay the $20 to $30 annually, but they are looking into the best way to subsidize the remainder of student membership fees, which would be lower than regular membership. USGD funding is one of the options being considered to pay the remaining membership cost for students.

Also, Joseph Perez was identified in the original story as the City of Phoenix bicycle coordinator and owner of the Bicycle Cellar. However, Perez was attending the meeting solely as a co-owner of the Bicycle Cellar and has asked that his City title be removed from the story.

Correction: January 27, 2012

An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Maricopa County Sustainability Manager Jonce Walker as saying “multi-mobile” rather than “multimodal.”

10 COMMENTS

  1. As an avid urban cyclist, I am super excited to get the Bicycle Cellar in Downtown Phoenix!!! Not only will this be a great amenity to bicycle commuters, hotel guests and business patrons, it’s also a great symbol that bicycles are finally becoming part of the way we live in Phoenix. The location couldn’t be more perfect, with its proximity to Central Station, ASU Downtown, and in a historic building, revitalizing a long-empty storefront. I think this use of the space will bring lots people to the area, people outside of their cars, which is exactly what Downtown needs. A big kudos to the people who’ve been working very hard, very patiently and persevering in this worthwhile and high-impact project. I hope bureaucrats don’t blow it in the next steps!!!

  2. I’m so happy to hear about this! I’ve just ventured into biking and this is certainly something that is needed and in such a great location. Let’s get more people walking and biking downtown!

  3. @Tyler, as someone who has also had a bike stolen Downtown, I can tell you that having the Bike Cellar nearby will be a FANTASTIC resource. If you aren’t familiar, take time to check out their website: http://www.thebicyclecellar.com/ and check out their Tempe location. It is a facility that will provide bicycles for rent and for purchase, secure storage for owned bicycles, and maintenance for bicycle repair. This is a BIG WIN for Downtown Phoenix!

  4. The Bicycle Cellar concept was by far the best option of those listed above. Some of the other proposed uses in the article don’t even make any sense for a ground-floor urban space. But the Bicycle Cellar will be awesome and I send a huge kudos to the County for taking seriously our screaming need for multi-modal development in Downtown. This is vital to Phoenix, and this excites me like crazy!

    I don’t need to do a Four-Step or a Logit Model to know that this will have extremely positive mode shift benefits for downtown both short- and long-term. It sounds like they need to raise some cash to complete the build out, so as a supporter of how this will affect downtown, I’ll chip in to see this become reality.

  5. This is an excellent example of an opportunity to benefit Downtown PHX on many fronts. It will increase multimodal transportation in our core, increase street activity, pedestrian traffic (IMO), patronage of DT businesses, feed Light Rail (decreasing auto traffic and pollution) and add vibrancy to our city. It’s a great use of a space in an important historic building and fantastic that the County has approved it at this time. I hope it signals the beginning of a range of public/private projects that will add to the quality of life in our city. And all that is just for starters.

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