The University of Chicago is bringing a bicycle center next to the Metra station at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue, providing a new place for cyclists to rent and store bicycles in Hyde Park.
The new center, which will be named the 53rd Street Bicycle Center, is set to open in coming weeks and will be operated by Bike and Park, a unit of Chicago-based Bike and Roll,  which has locations at Millennium Park and Navy Pier. The University leased the long-vacant space from Metra to help bring the amenity to the community.
“As we continue to bring new retailers and other businesses to the area around 53rd Street, the bicycle center will be a resource for people who prefer to get around the neighborhood by bike,” said James Hennessy, director of commercial real estate for the University. “It will help promote biking among commuters, residents and visitors to Hyde Park, at a time when the whole city is aiming to become more bike-friendly.”
Bike riders will be able to rent from a fleet of several dozen bicycles, which may be returned to the 53rd Street Bicycle Center or at other Bike and Roll locations across the city. The center also will offer monthly memberships for commuters, similar to the bike commuter location at Millennium Park, and will include space for at least 40 bikes. Bike and Park also will offer both bicycle and Segway tours in and around Hyde Park.
"Bike and Park is excited to become the hub for cycling in Hyde Park and to help draw new visitors into the neighborhood with a variety of bike rentals and tours, including food tours by bike," said Jeremy Rothschild, director of marketing and business development for Bike and Park.
The center also will include space for bike enthusiasts to attend presentations on bicycle maintenance, and it will participate in the University’s recycles bike share program .
“Bike and Park’s mission is to inspire people to ride bicycles for the benefit of one’s health, spirit and planet,” Rothschild added. “We realize this by partnering with like-minded, progressive communities to create spaces and programs that embrace our common vision.”
The 53rd Street Bicycle Center will fill a 2,000-square-foot space underneath the Metra tracks that has been vacant for 10 years. The University is adding the bicycle center as part of its broader efforts to revitalize economic activity in the area.
In February, Clarke’s restaurant  opened at 1447 E. 53rd Street, and Five Guys restaurant  opened on 53rd and Harper last fall. Akira , a fast-growing fashion chain based in Chicago, has announced plans to open its flagship store in the former Borders building at Lake Park Avenue and 53rd Street.
Harper Court, a joint development of the University and the City, is scheduled to open in 2013. Developer Harper Court Partners, LLC announced last week that it had signed Chipotle Mexican Grill  as one of its lead tenants.