Freeport hopes to use some pedal power to jumpstart the downtown - – Rockford’s News Leader

Freeport hopes to use some pedal power to jumpstart the downtown economy

Freeport's downtown hopes to cash in on a new path that connects the Pretzel City to Madison. The bike path could mean thousands of more dollars in revenue from sales tax.

Tutty's Crossing is about to become the trail head for the Jane Addams Trail. The now-incomplete bike path will eventually stretch from Freeport to Madison.

"I think that all business owners in the downtown area could definitely say that they will capitalize from this," says Josh Elliot, Zealous Art Studio and Tattoo owner.

When the last of the asphalt is poured, the connection does not just mean a better ride for bikers but potentially big money for the Pretzel City. The reason is that a typical weekend biker usually spends about $300 during a ride, according to Freeport Downtown Development Foundation's River District Committee. The group studied Madison and found that by just adding bike racks outside of businesses, the city increased its sales tax revenue by 3 percent.

"So for us that would be substantial. So we are looking at anywhere, close to $129,000 sales tax revenue to the city as well as upwards of $2 million for businesses here in the community," says Michele Massoth, River District Committee chair.

Besides adding custom bike racks, Freeport is also getting ready to put a bike lane through its downtown. It will loop the downtown starting from Tutty's Crossing.

"We believe it will attract people from a regional standpoint," Massoth says.

It has places like Union Dairy thinking beyond just its popular ice cream. Jodi Miller is trying to add signage so people who don't know what they offer will stop in. And those who do, she wants them to consider checking out the trail by adding a bike rental option.

"I want to have bikes available for my customers that come in from all over, which is right next to me and then they can take one of my bikes and go," says Miller.

"Certainly while Freeport has seen its share of challenges with businesses leaving and downsizing we see this as an opportunity to round that corner and start to see growth again in our community," says Massoth.

Freeport's River District Committee is also going to be holding workshops for store owners to help them become more bike-friendly. That includes making sure more business take credit and debit cards and are willing to ship any merchandise.
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