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West Bloomington Group Launching Bike Co-op

Cristian Jaramillio

The West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP) is acquiring new property and expanding its scope of services. The organization has announced it is purchasing the former Jesus House at 724 W. Washington Street and will consolidate its operations into the location, which will feature a bike co-op.

The WBRP is also going public with a fundraising campaign to assist with the building upgrades and operating expenses. During Sound Ideas Tahnee Lathrop, incoming WBRP board president, said nearly half the goal has been reached.

"It's a tall order, but we are at $48,000 right now. We're almost at the half-way point and we haven't really even opened the campaign yet," said Lathrop.

The new bike co-op will replace the annual Walk-In Bike-Out, a free bike giveaway program, which will hold its last event in April. Dan Steadman is a board member and former president of the Friends of the Constitution Trail, and part of an ad-hoc committee working to establish the co-op.

"Walk-In Bike-Out's been successful. We've given away over a thousand bikes, but there's always been this follow-up problem where, if the bike was given away, if something mechanical happened to it, the bike wouldn't be serviced. We're hoping the bike co-op will give a little bit more of an educational component to it," said Steadman.

The organizational committee is using the Peoria bike co-op as a model in getting established, said Steadman. If someone wanted to purchase a bike, they could do it through the co-op

"Their prices range from $5 to $200 with the average price about $80. All the bikes are re-built, but since they're donations, sometimes they appear to be brand new," said Steadman. There are also annual memberships available for $50, or Steadman said you can earn your membership.

"You can spend five to six hours of volunteer time--that's your annual membership--then you can work to earn a bicycle. We just want to get as many people involved as possible and not turn people away," said Steadman.

Credit Cristian Jaramillio / WGLT
The WBRP operates the Tool Library, which will be moving across the street from its current location at 801 W. Washington Street

The former Jesus House building was also formerly a neighborhood market decades ago, which Steadman said will provide plenty of space for bike repair work. Lathrop said the additional space will give the WBRP the opportunity to bring all of its offerings into one location. Among those programs are a community garden, the Book Bike, and the Tool Library. Lathrop said the bike co-op fits right in with the WBRP core mission.

"Walk-In Bike-Out has been a part of our group since its inception about seven years ago. When we studied community needs, affordable transportation was a part of that," she said.

According to a release issued by the WBRP, the new building at 724 W. Washington Street has over 3,000 square feet first floor space. The second floor has a 4-bedroom apartment which the WBRP will rent. The green space on the east side of the building was added to the property in recent years and will be used for outdoor programming.

The WBRP will stay in its current location at 801 W. Washington Street until the new site is ready for occupancy on May 1. The bike co-op is expected to open on June 1. The public can ask questions about the WBRP expansion at the organization's annual meeting, to be held Wednesday March 15 from 6 to 7:30 PM at First Christian Church, 401 W. Jefferson Street.

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Willis is a Bloomington, IL, native. During his senior year at Bloomington High School, he finished third in the "Radio Speaking" division of the state speech contest, the only year he competed.