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Thread: Madison Motorcycle Coop - concept

  1. #1
    gentleman rider Astrin's Avatar
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    Madison Motorcycle Coop - concept

    I've been thinking for some time about buying a small downtown Madison garage, as a combination of a personal real estate investment (presuming it's a buyer's market right now) and the desire to establish a community of bike enthusiasts that, like me, don't have a garage and could really use a place to work on bikes and hang out. There are a lot of bikes on the street in my downtown neighborhood, owned by students and other apartment dwellers, and these folks could use a place with a lift, special tools, manuals, shared expertise and storage. The scope would be worked out by the initial co-op membership, but those are pretty clear concepts. It remains to be seen whether such a co-op would succeed as a community, but I'd like to give it a shot. I know several guys both in the Madison BMW Club and Wisconsin SportBikes that live in apartments and don't really have a decent place to work on their bikes or store them in the winter. And a lot of others just like to hang out around bikes and work on them with friends. A well-stocked fridge will be essential for the co-op, of course, and it'd be good to have events (like movies, parties, workshops, etc.) to draw folks in.

    I've thought a bit about the membership profile. I don't care what kind of bike folks ride, but I do feel there is a MAJOR divide between folks that ride safely and those that don't. I don't respect folks that ride motorcycles without helmets. I understand their (in my opinion, deeply misguided) desire for "personal freedom", but I don't agree with it. So, I'd want the co-op to emphasize safe riding, whether it be Beemers, Harleys, or sportbikes, as a core principle.

    I've registered a domain and put up a web page just to sort of lay out the concept: http://madisonmotorcyclecoop.org

    I'm currently looking at properties with a commercial real estate agent. The nice thing about the project is that it doesn't require that the co-op be "profitable" or even "break even." The core idea is a personal real estate investment. The great thing would be if the co-op can generate some rent through membership dues, but I'm more interested in it becoming an active community of bike enthusiasts. If things went really well, maybe it would add some service and retail activities, like the old Yellow Jersey Bicycle Co-op did in the Seventies. I could imagine some wrenches plying their trade on the premises. Maybe if it did really, really well, and the membership wanted to, it would eventually buy the property.

    I know bike co-ops exist in other cities, and I'm hoping to get in touch with some of those folks to hear about their experiences, things that worked and didn't. Please let me know of your experiences and of similar co-ops I can contact.

    Thanks!
    Sam Hokin
    sam@bsharp.org
    Sam Hokin, Madison BMW Club | Facebook | Flickr
    1991 K75RT (117,000 mi) road | 2001 Suzuki GSX-R600 track
    "BMWs are slugs, for gentleman riders who are also slugs." -- letter to Cycle World, 1984

  2. #2
    Registered User womanridge's Avatar
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    I wish you all good luck. I know I'm looking at selling my home now that I'm retired and even though I don't wrench much, I would like a place to wash, change oil and do simple maintenance. I'm not in the Madison area, otherwise I would certainly consider it.
    If I can provide some additional advice: As a retired Building Code official, I would encourage you to pay a visit to the Madison Zoning Department. Tell them exactly what you are intending to do. Once you write that offer to purchase, you are somewhat committed. If the neighborhood zoning district does not allow it as a permitted use, you could be in a difficult situation. The fact that it's a commercial building does not necessarily mean the use you intend is permitted.
    As I said, I wish you good luck. I think it's a great idea.

  3. #3
    Registered User texanrt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astrin View Post
    I've registered a domain and put up a web page just to sort of lay out the concept: http://madisonmotorcyclecoop.org

    Thanks!
    Sam Hokin
    sam@bsharp.org
    That is a very interesting concept. If you come across any other co-op web sites please post an update.
    Texan RT | Houston | IBA
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  4. #4
    gentleman rider Astrin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by womanridge View Post
    If I can provide some additional advice: As a retired Building Code official, I would encourage you to pay a visit to the Madison Zoning Department. Tell them exactly what you are intending to do. Once you write that offer to purchase, you are somewhat committed. If the neighborhood zoning district does not allow it as a permitted use, you could be in a difficult situation. The fact that it's a commercial building does not necessarily mean the use you intend is permitted.
    Excellent advice, I'll do that. My #1 prospect is zoned as a service garage, and that's what the prior tenant did. But that's definitely a key check before making an offer.

    Milwaukee isn't that far away! I'd hope that folks like you would become members (just as the Willy Street Coop has many out-of-town members), and would ride in to do oil changes and stuff or participate in some events. The co-op will certainly have online functions like voting and stuff so folks don't have to come to all the meetings in person. One key thing is to make it welcoming to folks that don't come around a lot as well as the regulars.
    Sam Hokin, Madison BMW Club | Facebook | Flickr
    1991 K75RT (117,000 mi) road | 2001 Suzuki GSX-R600 track
    "BMWs are slugs, for gentleman riders who are also slugs." -- letter to Cycle World, 1984

  5. #5
    Registered User womanridge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astrin View Post
    Excellent advice, I'll do that. My #1 prospect is zoned as a service garage, and that's what the prior tenant did. But that's definitely a key check before making an offer.

    Milwaukee isn't that far away! I'd hope that folks like you would become members (just as the Willy Street Coop has many out-of-town members), and would ride in to do oil changes and stuff or participate in some events. The co-op will certainly have online functions like voting and stuff so folks don't have to come to all the meetings in person. One key thing is to make it welcoming to folks that don't come around a lot as well as the regulars.
    P.M. sent

  6. #6
    Registered User PeoriaMac's Avatar
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    There was a fellow in Chicago who did the same thing. You might try googling Chicago Motorcycle and garage...or check in with the members of the Chicago BMWMOA. I'd love to have that kind of freedom. Big work space, Fridge, a lift....sigh!
    Mac
    1986 R80RT, 2005 R1200GS
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  7. #7
    Still Wondering mika's Avatar
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    Conceptually the idea is fascinating. Please keep us posted on any developments.

    In addition to investigating zoning laws you will need to bone up on the various requirements for operating a real-estate coop in Wisconsin. Once you think you have a general handle on that seek competent legal advice before you do anything further.

    You have two stated goals if I am reading your post correctly. Personal investment and a very general concept about a motorcycle community work place.

    Personal investment ÔÇô
    I caution you on using a coop as the model for a real-estate investment unless you see yourself as a developer. I donÔÇÖt know what your goals are but as you become familiar with the requirements for setting up and running a coop be certain to compare them to your personal goals. Is the location you have in mind and the coop concept going to meet your personal goals?

    Community ÔÇô
    While not coops with a purpose as you suggest, I have been involved in two coops over the years. One for housing and another for sailboats and walked away from both with a bad taste in my mouth. YMMV

    Two red flags that strike me as I read your post are what is in the fridge and the hanger-ons that show up. Both could lead to liability problems and problems with law enforcement.

    Alternate model for consideration.

    I have been involved as a renter in two warehouse garage operations. I found they worked well for me and seemed to work well for the owners.

    Both were one story warehouses that were sub divided into garage stalls. Both had amenities that were owned and could be shared by the renters/owners.

    One was a pure rental facility. The renters could lease a single or two car space. There was an equipped designated area that could be rented to do things such as welding and painting. Some specialty tools were available for rent.

    The second was set up as a hybrid garage condo and at a fairly mature stage of development when I had space in it. Condominium associations present their own set of problems but they may not be as daunting as setting up and running a coop.

    The association owned the building. People could buy a space within the building. The building was over 80% sold IIRC when I was there. Renting was an option. The unsold spaces were rented on a lease basis and owners could rent their owned spaces on the same terms but secondary to the association renting space. With renters the building was full and sublet from an owner. The common elements were quite elaborate but restricted to owners. This building housed both cages and motorcycles. Some of the cages were street rod type show cars, exotic sports cars and projects. The bikes range over a variety of brands and applications.

    Access was limited in both. The condo was by invitation only. This promoted security both from a theft point of view and a liability standpoint for what people did within the space.

    Again, this is a very interesting concept that has great possibilities. Do you homework before you leap.

    Pass the mustard and UP THE REVOLUTION!

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  8. #8
    gentleman rider Astrin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mika View Post

    Again, this is a very interesting concept that has great possibilities. Do you homework before you leap.

    Will do, Mika, and these are excellent points. As for the business model, the real estate investment, which is personal, is meant to be completely separate from the co-op, which is a tenant. I'll personally own the property, and the co-op will occupy it, supplying rent when it's feasible. So it's an investment combined with a community, but they're legally decoupled.
    Sam Hokin, Madison BMW Club | Facebook | Flickr
    1991 K75RT (117,000 mi) road | 2001 Suzuki GSX-R600 track
    "BMWs are slugs, for gentleman riders who are also slugs." -- letter to Cycle World, 1984

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