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Hub312 is closing this month. Could Millennium Park lose its bike station for good?

The bike station building. Image: Google Maps

For the first time since the Millennium Park bike station opened in 2004, the bike parking, locker room, repair, and rental service will be going offline indefinitely. The center, currently called Hub312, will permanently close on Friday, September 30, at 5 p.m., according to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which oversees the park.

The Chicago Department of Transportation built the steel-and-glass structure, located at 239 E. Randolph St. at a cost of $3.2 million, using federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds, in conjunction with the grand opening of the Millennium Park. McDonald's bought the naming rights, and the tour company Bike and Roll Chicago operated the center for most of its existence. The building has also provided space for a downtown Chicago Police Department bike patrol.

In late May 2021, the Chicago-based mobility operations company Shift Transit took over operations. That firm was founded by Eddy Inlow, who served as the first general manager for the Divvy bike-share program. Shift rehabbed the locker rooms, introduced towel service and set up membership packages, including discounted “equity memberships” for residents who get food benefits from the state.

Shift’s contract to operate the bike station required the company pay an $60,000 annual fee to use the facility, plus 3 percent of the annual gross revenue for the first year, 5 percent of the annual gross revenue for the second year and 7 percent for the third year. The commissioner of DCASE had the right to terminate the agreement “without cause, for any reason,” as long as they gave Shift a 30-day notice.

In August 2021, Inlow told Streetsblog that, even with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and many people still telecommuting, there was still demand for indoor bike parking downtown. “Customers took 3 million trips in 2020, and we’re looking to grow it in 2021,” he said.

Streetsblog first heard rumors of the closing on social media. A bike station subscriber told us members were given notice on Friday that the facility was shutting down at the end of the month. She added she heard secondhand that the police presence at the bike station building would be increased as part of the change.

Millennium Park has seen additional security measures since May 14, when a mass gathering of young people tragically culminated in the shooting death of Seandell Holliday, 16. The next day Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that unaccompanied minors would no longer be allowed in Millennium Park after 6 p.m. between Thursdays and Sundays. The park also got metal detectors and security checkpoints.

Another Streetsblog reader who occasionally does bike repair gave us similar intel. "I was there last week checking out an old fleet of cop bikes to do a repair quote for the city," he said. "The person I met there told me that membership is down to just over twenty people. That’s down from 200 and a waiting list when it opened." He added that he visited during the bike station's posted hours of operation, but no Hub312 staff seemed to be present.

Indoor parking area at the bike station. Photo: Hub 312
Indoor parking area at the bike station. Photo: Hub 312
Indoor parking area at the bike station. Photo: Hub 312

DCASE deputy commissioner Jamey Lundblad confirmed in a statement that the bike station is going out of business. "Due to business conditions during and coming out of the pandemic, HUB312 will be permanently closing... DCASE is currently exploring options to determine the best use of this space."

Lundblad didn't respond to follow-up questions about whether a new concessionaire could potentially reopen the bike center, or if the space might be used to house a larger police presence in the future.

CPD News Affairs didn't immediately respond to a query about the possibility of an expanded police presence at the station either.

In response to an interview request, Shift chief managing officer Heili Toome, sent simply re-sent the short DCASE statement.

The fact that the construction of the bike station building was bankrolled by CMAQ funds, intended to help alleviate traffic jams and pollution, may complicate any plans to use the facility for a purpose unrelated to sustainable transportation. But one thing's for sure: If there's any truth to the rumor that the building will be permanently transformed from a bike parking and rental center to a CPD facility, there's certain to be a backlash from both cycling enthusiasts and "defund the police" types.

This piece incorporates previous reporting by Igor Studenkov.

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