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Rich City Rides

Rich City Rides launches $6 million fundraising campaign

on May 15, 2023

Rich City Rides is racing to raise $6 million in the next four months to secure its future in Richmond and expand services. 

The bike group launched a campaign in March to purchase three properties, including the longtime home of its bike shop at 1500 Macdonald Ave. The organization has received $1.2 million in donations so far and has been offered a $3.3 million loan from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, according to founder Najari Smith.

The purchases would be part of a larger project to expand Rich City Rides’ outreach efforts by converting the buildings into community spaces. Further donations will go toward repaying the loan and other expenses related to the design and construction phases of the project.  

Rich City Rides is a program of the Richmond agriculture nonprofit Urban Tilth. But Urban Tilth is not involved in the fundraising campaign, said Urban Tilth Executive Director  Doria Robinson.

“I do feel like it’s achievable,” Robinson said, pointing out that last year, Urban Tilth was in a similar situation when it purchased a neighboring property with the help of donors. “It’s possible if the word spreads to the right ears.”

Rich City Rides
Rich City Rides is raising money to buy three buildings, including “The Mother Ship” on Macdonald Avenue. (Nadia Lathan)

While the initial plan was to purchase four buildings, that changed to three a few weeks following the announcement, upon consideration of costs. 

If Rich City Rides is unable to acquire the properties, “it could put the bike shop in jeopardy,” Smith said. The loan — offered at zero-interest for six months — combined with the donations, puts the group just $1.5 million away from the finish line. Smith says the organization hasn’t yet accepted the loan, though, because it wants to be sure the money can be repaid within the six-month time frame.

Property owner Charles Patterson and Rich City Rides agreed to negotiate purchasing the buildings last July, but the thought had been in the back of Smith’s mind ever since he opened the shop in 2014. It wasn’t until about two years ago that Patterson warmed to the idea of selling the property. 

“They’re a pretty grassroots organization that cares about the neighborhood,” Patterson said. 

According to Smith, over 300 people have signed a “Save Rich City” petition, and participation has been high at recent community bike rides, raising awareness for the campaign.

Besides the bike shop, ideas for what to do with the two other properties Rich City Rides seeks to acquire are conceptual. The petition asks signatories what they’d hope to see first from the project: improvements to the bike shop, also known as “The Mothership,” the implementation of a Black wellness hub that would feature workshops related to African culture and history, or the creation of a Rich City residential multiplex to provide affordable housing and host community events.

Smith wants to use the project to provide Richmond’s Black residents with what has been systematically denied after decades of economic disinvestment and neglect. 

“What things do we go outside of Richmond for that would be great to have in Richmond?” Smith asked himself, when designing the project. “We do a lot of culture-change work. We look at what’s missing, and we fill the gaps.”

Rich City Rides has played an integral role in community-building efforts since its inception 11 years ago. Its weekly “Selfcare Sunday” rides are popular, and its bike giveaways have provided hundreds of people with bicycles in the past decade. The group helped design and advocate for Unity Park, which turned sections of the Richmond Greenway into a gathering space, with a plaza, gazebo, walkways, and basketball court. 

More information about the fundraising campaign is on Urban Tilth’s website.

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