City's in the running for bicycling museum

January 02, 1992|By Edward Gunts

Baltimore could become the site of the National Bicycling Museum, a $3 million attraction planned by the League of American Wheelmen.

According to Gilbert Clark, executive director of the 22,000-member organization, Baltimore is one of two cities that have expressed interest in being the home of the museum, which would display antique bicycles and other cycling-related exhibits and artifacts owned by the organization or its members.

The museum would initially contain about 20,000 square feet of display space.

Mr. Clark said the league, a non-profit organization that recently moved its headquarters to the city, hopes to decide by next summer where to build.

Dayton, Ohio -- hometown of Wilbur and Orville Wright and the bicycle shop they ran before taking flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. -- also has expressed interest in being the host city, he said.

If the league selects Baltimore, officials would like the museum to be "associated with the Inner Harbor or the stadium area in some way," since that is where the crowds are, Mr. Clark said. "We think it has a lot of potential."

The League of American Wheelmen -- which bills itself as the nation's largest organization of bicyclists -- is one of several groups or companies that moved its headquarters to Baltimore during 1991.

Others included the International Book Bank, which moved from Chicago to Belt's Business Center in East Baltimore; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., which moved from Chicago to lower Charles Village; and Wilhelmsen Lines USA, the U.S. operation of a Dutch shipping line, which moved from New York to offices in the World Trade Center.

I= Mr. Clark said the League of American Wheelmen employs 13

and leased 3,500 square feet of space for six years at the Spring Garden Business Park, a Himmelrich Associates development at Sharp and Ostend streets. He said his organization had outgrown its previous offices in Woodlawn and chose the South Baltimore site because staffers wanted to be close to Interstate 95 and the MARC train lines, since the organization lobbies extensively in Washington.

Mr. Clark described the league as an advocacy and educational organization for bicyclists, working to promote bicycling and improve conditions for bicyclists around the country.

He said it recently lobbied for passage of the Surface Transportation Act of 1991, a highway spending bill that allows federal funds to be used to build bike trails and other highway-related improvements for people traveling on foot or by bicycle rather than by car or truck.

Founded in Newport, R.I., in 1880, the organization also publishes a magazine, Bicycle USA, and a newsletter, Bicyclist Advocacy Bulletin, and maintains an extensive library in Baltimore.

City officials say the league is a good example of the kind of non-profit organization that the Schmoke administration wants to bring to Baltimore.

The league was an ideal candidate, they say, because its staff wanted be near Washington yet couldn't afford the high rents associated with a Washington address.

Mr. Clark also said he likes the fact that Baltimore is more of a "real city" than Washington and that the Baltimore Bicycle Club, with hundreds of members, is one of the organization's largest affiliates.

Mr. Clark said the Baltimore Economic Development Corp. -- now known as the Baltimore Develop

ment Corp. -- was very helpful to the league when officials were deciding where to move.

He said the league was working with a local group that proposed earlier this year to recycle the southern end of the B&O warehouse in Camden Yards as a center for non-profit and health-related organizations. The league would have liked to open the National Bicycling Museum there, Mr. Clark added.

The Maryland Stadium Authority and others subsequently selected a competing development team, headed by Richard Swirnow, to be the exclusive developer for the southern end of the B&O warehouse and Camden Station.

Mr. Clark said his group remains interested in finding a location that would have room for both its offices and its museum, and that other cities may still be considered in addition to Baltimore and Dayton. One of the critical factors in the site-selection process, Mr. Clark said, will be "what support we get from each city."

After selecting a site in mid-1992, he said, league members hope to raise funds and begin construction in time to have the museum running in three to five years.

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