One Less Car, Ten More Bikes
NORTHAMPTON — Thanks to Realtor Craig Della Penna, there’s now one less place to park your car downtown. There are, however, 10 more places to park your bicycle.
Last Friday, a flatbed truck rolled up to Pedal to Properties, Della Penna’s full-service real estate shop at 14 Strong Ave., and two workers unloaded and installed Northampton’s first “bike corral.” The hefty steel structure, painted in circus blue and red, takes up exactly one on-street parking spot — the one directly in front of Della Penna’s shop. A yellow hood had been padlocked over the parking meter.
“This will be good for business,” said Della Penna. “Ten bikes versus one car.”
The new structure is designed to offer safe, secure bike parking for visitors or commuters to downtown Northampton, he said, and may be used by anyone, not just his customers.
While most passersby expressed pleasure at the sight of the new street-level bike rack, one man was less than pleased. “Hey! I was going to park there!” he remarked to Della Penna, who was supervising the installation. “How do you get away with that?”
Della Penna explained that he had procured a permit from the city’s Parking Division, and had signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Mayor Mary Clare Higgins that requires him to pay the city a $5 daily fee for the meter hood. The permit is seasonal; the rack must be removed by November 15 and can’t be put back until April 15 of the following year.
The structure was built by Salmon Studios, a Northampton-based metal shop specializing in custom signage, sculptural elements and architectural work.
Pedal to Properties offers another unique service: free cruiser bikes rentals. “Anyone can borrow a bike,” said office manager Jessica Lapinski. “We’ll take a picture of your credit card and license, and you’ll be good to go. No charge.”
She added that Pedal to Properties is involved in discussions with the Hotel Northampton and the Autumn Inn to provide free cruiser bikes there, too.
Della Penna is known nationally and locally for his ardent and effective rail-trail advocacy. He’s a former staffer with the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and has shepherded many projects through his own consulting firm, Northeast Greenway Solutions. He serves on several state advisory committees, non-profit boards and other organizations devoted to the support of everyday cycling by ordinary people.
“Northampton is within the densest network of rail-trail development in the Northeast,” he said, “of which I’ve helped create over 1,000 miles.”
When asked what motivates him — and why a Realtor would spend money to provide cycling infrastructure for the community — Della Penna talked at length about the relationship between his personal and business values.
“I’ve spent many years of my life promoting rail trails, smart growth and liveable communities,” he said. “It makes sense for Realtors to be interested in the environment. In fact, the American Association of Realtors publishes a smart growth magazine. More and more people are interested in buying homes in communities where they can live, work, and play.”
“If you’re a Realtor without a niche, you’re dead in the water,” Della Penna continued. “I’ve always specialized in houses near rail trails and conservation land. We’re just taking it one step further here. I believe in smart growth, infill, environmental quality, and walkable, bikeable neighborhoods.”
“I’ve built an art gallery (The Trailside Gallery) and community meeting room downstairs as well,” he said. “We’re currently featuring water colors by David Gloman.”
Della Penna and his wife also run the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn, a bed-and-breakfast located at 62 Chestnut St. in Florence, adjacent to the rail trail linking downtown Northampton with Leeds.
Pedal to Properties features home sales, buyer agent services, property rentals, and rental management. While clients may tour homes on bikes, they’re under no obligation to do so.
“For initial showings, we’ll often drive potential home buyers out to different towns and neighborhoods so they can look around. When they’ve narrowed down their choices, we’ll hop on bikes and go, if that’s what people want to do. It allows them to really explore and see things in a different way.”
“We’re here to make a difference,” Della Penna concluded. “This is not your grandmother’s real estate office.”