Blog: The Velodrome Connection

We’re working on a story this week about how a bunch of former Rust Belt cities like Pittsburgh, Allentown, Cleveland,...

We’re working on a story this week about how a bunch of former Rust Belt cities like Pittsburgh, Allentown, Cleveland, and Detroit are taking solid steps toward recovery. It seems like there’s a special sauce that includes proximity to major universities, major and minor league sports franchises, and interest from tech companies and other corporations that are looking for a place to set up shop that offers a lower cost of living than, say, Manhattan.

And then there’s the Velodrome Connection – many of these rising U.S. cities either have a velodrome or have one under construction or in the planning stages.

For those of you who have no idea what we’re talking about, a velodrome is an oval-shaped arena for track cycling. The arena’s sides are banked and people race around on it on fixed-gear bikes. If you haven’t been to a velodrome, you should definitely go. Track cycling rocks.

The Velodrome Connection is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First, a lot of our readers race or ride bikes. Many of our readers are also working on projects with transit-oriented components, which includes proximity to bike paths and bike rooms in their buildings. And a lot of the emerging cities that we’re writing about have strong and growing bike cultures.

Cleveland opened up a world-class velodrome in 2012, around the same time that the city’s urban revival took hold. Detroit, which is coming out of a protracted tailspin, is slated to get a $4m indoor velodrome in its Midtown submarket any day now. Allentown has a famous velodrome in nearby Trexlertown, which has hosted international races for years (and was also the home velodrome for one of REFI’s  former long-time contributors). Pittsburgh has its Island Velodrome and Richmond, Va., which in 2015 hosted the Cycling World Championships, also has a velodrome in the works.

It should also be noted that Brooklyn had a chance to have its own velodrome but plans never came to fruition. We wonder what that says about the prospects for the commercial real estate market there.

There are a few more velodromes in the works, including a $20m facility that’s being mapped out in Reading, Pa., and a serious proposal to build another on in Boston. All of this leads us to the following conclusion for commercial real estate pros who are looking for new marekts: Follow the velodromes.