Crank Daddy’s Bicycle Works moved to a new location last week Tuesday, April 12th. Their former location at 2108 N Farwell Ave was pretty nice, but the new store at 2170 N Prospect is even sweeter. I visited the shop to drop off maps the day after they moved. I was particularly impressed with the covered bike parking outside the shop. This is the first covered bike parking and the first outdoor vertical bicycle parking racks in Milwaukee. If you look closely, you can see the surface area under the roof is permeable. The architects for the project integrated passive storm water management into the bike parking area.
It is really not surprising that Crank Daddy’s has the best customer bicycle parking in Milwaukee when you consider that Alterra Coffee Roasters is their landlord. Lincoln, Paul and Ward at Alterra have long been know for their support of cycling. They sponsor a team, donate to events like bike to work week, encourage bicycle commuting for their employees, etc. Ward is a pretty die-hard all-season commuter who even takes his kids to daycare via bicycle.
Alterra coffee shops are also known for their cutting edge, green building design. Alterra is also going to have the first in-street bicycle parking corral in Milwaukee at their Prospect Ave location across the street. They are also planning more innovative bicycle parking at their future location at Lincoln Ave. and KK. The brilliant by Chris Socha of Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. is the architect responsible for all the designs.
I asked Ward and Chris to give me a little background on the project and how they developed the idea for the innovative bicycle parking. I think this serves as a perfect case study about how profit driven, but socially conscious business ventures can make investments that improve a neighborhood as well as their bottom line.
OTB: The building was the Alterra bakery at one time, wasn’t it?
Ward: The 2170 North Prospect building housed our bakery for years. Once the bakery moved to Humboldt, 2170 was used for storage. By the time the recent project started, the building was full of stuff………. what is this stuff? Who bought this stuff? why are we storing this stuff? We purged but still ended up needing to lease another building for simple warehousing.
OTB: Based on all the work that was done to the building, it seems like a pretty expensive build-out. Although you are obviously intelligent businessmen, most property owners don’t make that kind of investment for a tenant. Would it be fair to say you made that investment in part out of your support for bicycling and the positive effect it can have on the neighborhood?
Ward: The project was indeed expensive and could have been done for less money. There were things, however, that needed to be done to the building that were overdue– new roof with substantial insulation, new skylights with thermal glass, new facade, new HVAC, new treatment to the area between the building and the sidewalk. It was satisfying approaching the project with the retail use lined up and we might have gotten a bit carried away. We tried to remind ourselves– and Chris– that it wasn’t actually our business! We thought–especially the outside work– that going to the extra effort and expense would increase the likelihood that Crank Daddys would be successful. In the short-term we are not scrutinizing the economics of the deal too closely! But, in the long-term, we will do fine if the business is a success, as we believe it will be.
OTB: How did the design come about?
Ward: The design was entirely by Chris Socha under the auspices of Kubala Washatko. The design was made once we knew Crank Daddys was interested in relocating. We like the retail bike use for this building– it’s the right size, and support of cycling is something, as you know, we’ve been interested in for a long time. The design of the building was inspired by Chris and refined, as is typical for us, in many collaborative sessions, sitting around a computer. We had rendered the building for another retail use years ago and some of the ideas for that design were a jumping off place for the current design.
Chris: From my point of view, the overall project goal was to heal a small stretch of Prospect Ave. Having recently completed the Alterra Prospect renovation, I spent a great deal of time on the site taking in the surroundings. The street’s east side has always bothered me with its suburban setbacks, surface parking lots, and lack of any real pedestrian-friendly environment. So the idea was to take the old baking commissary’s surface parking lot and turn it into a bike court. This move served two purposes really: first to create a better pedestrian experience, secondly, to remove a steep grade from sidewalk to building.
OTB: Tell me more about the parking.
Chris: Zoning required us to still provide 5 parking spaces. However in order to make the building accessible, we decided to create a “front porch” that housed an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp, stairs, and bike display space. Slender steel columns and beams define the structure, while a corrugated metal roof protects it from the weather. With the front porch in place, we had used up a significant amount of surface parking (we had space for 1 car and 1 van accessible parking stall). We went to BOZA (Board of Zoning Appeals) and received a dimensional variance for the parking reduction.
To give the space a more urban feel, I worked to create a courtyard that extended the built-area right up to the sidewalk. The idea was to create vertical bike storage along the South property line. This could provide both definition to the space and an opportunity to display product (and if the bike shop fails, it’s bike parking space). The vertical bike hoop was based on one I found online. I had to guess my way through the exact design, so we had our metal fabricator mock one up for testing. Ward and I each biked to the site that day to try it out — works really well! It provides stability for the hanging bike, and gives you a secure rack to lock to.
The vertical bike parking wall turns the corner and becomes the sheltered bike corral. I had been researching covered bike parking for quite some time and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce the concept to Milwaukee. It offers a nice human-scaled element to the sidewalk while helping define the bike court. I extended the canopy about as far as allowed into the right-of-way. We’ll see how Crank Daddy’s uses it… the original intent was for this to be a customer parking area, however I suspect they’ll display their own product there (and they probably should).
OTB: What about the passive storm water management. Did you calculate the savings that will generate?
Chris: Below the sheltered parking is a pervious paver system. We didn’t calculate a figure for money saved by this storm water device… we were building over what was once a grassy strip, so the intent was simply to still allow for water infiltration. Similarly, we wanted to capture the porch’s roof runoff in a rain garden adjacent to the building. It has yet to be landscaped, but you’ll see native plantings that can handle a fairly significant rain event. This was a nice way to further remove pavement from the former surface parking lot.
OTB: How else was the building designed to make it better for a bicycle retail space?
Chris: As it relates to bikes, we used very generous glass panes for the new storefront window system. I based the size off of the ability to fully display a bike in each window bay. So my hope is that this space starts to bring a better pedestrian experience to Prospect. Coupled with the Alterra bike corral, it should start to feel pretty good over there.