IOWA CITY — The communal bike loan and repair shop known as the Iowa City Bike Library is looking for new digs for the third time in a little over three years, putting the organization’s future at risk.
The lease for the nonprofit’s current location at 700 S. Dubuque St. expires in February, and while it may be extended on a monthly basis, the one-story building is in line for redevelopment.
“It is somewhat frustrating because there’s a lot of new stuff we are taking on,” said Brian Loring, board president for the Bike Library. “We have fresh energy and new ideas we are taking on in the next year or two, but the thing we keep bumping into is space.”
The uncertainty has restrained the volunteer-powered Bike Library, which diverts old bikes from the landfill, fixes them and loans them out for a small deposit. They also offer rentable spaces on the repair bench, maintenance and safety education, and strive to make biking more representative across races, ages and genders.
In the past year, they’ve branched out to offer a bike class at the Senior Center, a safety class at the Grant Wood Elementary after-school program, and started a Womxn-Trans*-Femme education and open shop time for woman-identified and gender-nonconforming individuals led by mechanic-instructors who fit the same description.
But, this year is up in the air. They need a good amount of space — not necessarily nice space — close to the downtown area to carry out its mission, but real estate in downtown Iowa City sells for a premium.
“We need a certain amount of space and something close to downtown … not necessarily in the downtown district but in the walking-biking distance,” said Cody Gieselman, executive director and lone paid staffer of the organization. “Hopefully we will figure something out.”
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The Bike Library organized in 2004 and operated from 2005 to 2014 in the now-demolished Wilson’s building on Gilbert and College streets, reopened in an underused University of Iowa warehouse on Capitol Street, and then relocated to what had been a spin studio on Dubuque Street.
Gieselman said the hope is to fundraise over the next couple of years for a permanent location, meaning in all likelihood the next space would also be temporary.
While Loring and Gieselman said they think they will find something, Loring said an extended closure because they can’t find space could prove fatal for the bike library.
“This is a vibrant functional sustainable organization for the most part, except this one issue,” Loring said. “It would be a shame to lose the organization because we can’t find a place.”
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