On warm weekend afternoons, it's not uncommon to see a hundred bikes or more parked outside Mullets, a popular trail-side bar south of downtown.

A local developer is betting some of those cyclists would like to call the area home.

Nelson Construction & Development plans to build a 154-unit bike-friendly apartment complex called Bici Flats across the street. It would sit near a hub for several bike trails on the east side of Southeast First Street, south of the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers.

Bike-oriented housing developments are popping up around the country, but Bici Flats would be the first in Des Moines. The $17.5 million project would also represent a significant investment in the Two Rivers District, an area city leaders identified nearly a decade ago as a target for new commercial and housing development.

Nelson's team gave the Register an exclusive look at the proposed project this week.

Bike amenities planned

The project's design is aimed at cyclists.

Each building will include bike storage areas, repair stands with tools and pumps, and a room for washing bikes.

Individual apartments will have places to store bikes and easy-to-clean flooring from the front door to the balcony so residents can roll their bikes through without worrying about staining the carpet.

"Every decision we made, every amenity we offer is very intentional," said Alexander Grgurich, a partner in the project.

Proximity to the bike trails is a big selling point, but Grgurich said the developers want Bici Flats to appeal to more than just cyclists. The complex will be pet-friendly and offer community rooms and yoga studios, for example.

"Biking is not the end-all, be-all of this project, but we have this great amenity, so why ignore it," he said.

Assistant City Manager Matt Anderson, a cyclist himself, said that Nelson's team seems to be taking the biking amenities seriously.

"It's one thing to call yourself bicycle-friendly by having a few bike racks outside. It's another thing to turn your architect loose and say: 'Make sure a bike fits here. Make sure we have a bike wash,' " Anderson said. "I think they have done a good job on some forward-thinking architecture on this."

Other cities offer bike-oriented housing

More developers are trying to appeal to cyclists. High-end apartments and condos in Minneapolis and Portland, Ore., promise amenities like bike valets and bike maintenance stations.

Such perks appeal two key demographics: millennials who want to live close to urban centers and pedal to work and retirees who want easy access to healthy activities like cycling.

"I know there is demand for places like this around the country," said Jeremy Lewis, executive director of the nonprofit Des Moines Bicycle Collective. "It's exciting to see developers like Nelson tapping into that market."

Nod to neighborhood's history

The project's name is a nod to cycling and the area's Italian roots. Bici is Italian for bike.

The surrounding neighborhood is home to sausage-maker Graziano Bros., Tumea & Sons restaurant and the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa.

Local leaders have long hoped its proximity to downtown would attract new investment. A master plan for the Two Rivers District released in 2006 outlined the potential for apartments and senior housing along the riverfront and new storefronts on Indianola Avenue and Southeast First Street.

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