In an era of hypertechnology, Opus Development Corporation is doing its best to enable future residents of a luxury residential building, now going up in downtown Minneapolis, to use foot power to access the city’s office towers, shopping, and parks — and to reconnect with the environment and each other. Even the project’s name, VÉLO — French for bicycle — reflects the building’s focus on this mode of transportation.
Set in the centrally located North Loop neighborhood, VÉLO will offer 101 luxury units for rent as well as 12,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, according to Tom Lund, vice president, real estate development, for Opus. Lund, a bicycling enthusiast, said that “when we were conceiving the project, I came up with the idea of a health-oriented cycling-based project. This seemed like the perfect place for it. It is in downtown Minneapolis in a cool neighborhood, near our incredible bike trail system.”
According to Bicycling magazine, Minneapolis has 120 miles of biking trails and is considered the top biking city in the United States. (Portland, OR, also has held this title in recent years, and may well regain it next year.)
Many office building developers and owners in Minneapolis are onboard with bicycling as well and provide bike storage for those who ride to work. Many bicycle commuters, however, are not content to secure their vehicles to a bike rack on the street or even in the building’s garage, because these are not your grandfather’s Schwinn. Some employees worry that their bikes — which may come with price tags as high as $5,000 — will not be safe and secure unless they can keep them in their offices. Therefore, Lund said, it is not unusual to see bicycles being transported in office building elevators.
Lund also noted that while most cities conduct regular automobile traffic counts, Minneapolis does a bicycle count as well, and discovered that off-season bicycling in the city increased by 25 percent last year. While it may seem surprising that someone would ride a bicycle in the middle of winter in Minnesota, Lund explained that milder winters created by global warming are changing bike rider’s behavior, and many people now bicycle year-round in Minneapolis. Some have fat-wheeled bikes, which are stable on snow and ice, for the cold weather. “Our bike paths are now more clear of snow in the winter than in the past,” he said.
VÉLO will offer residents secure storage for bicycles as well as showers, lockers, and a bike maintenance room. The bicycle-themed room will feature all of the equipment that bike enthusiasts will need to work on their vehicles, as well as space for them to socialize over a cup of coffee. Additional amenities will include two rooftop areas with outdoor seating and garden boxes where residents can grow their own fruits and vegetables.
“There is an [element of] simplicity to using the bike to commute,” noted Lund. “There is also a cost benefit (because you do not have to pay for parking), a strong health benefit, and people feel they are doing something good for the environment.”
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