Pittsburgh is so hot right now.

Not literally, since the Iron City is experiencing its harshest winter in over 20 years, but in terms of livability, affordability, and romance, Pittsburgh is going through a surge of positive media coverage for an amazing economic turnaround.

This is, in part, due to the efforts of local entrepreneurs opening new businesses in various Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Harry Geyer of The Wheel Mill is the perfect example. His vision for an indoor bike park materialized in the spring of 2013, and was helped along by a Kiva Zip loan late last fall.

The Wheel Mill, an 80,000 square foot indoor bike park that caters to both BMX and mountain bikes, offers incredible ramps, trails, and terrain for riding year-round in Pittsburgh. Perfect for escaping the throes of the polar vortex, Geyer’s park offers lessons, promo nights, and camps throughout the year.

Yet, when The Wheel Mill opened in April 2013, the location made some Pittsburghers pause. The bike park is in Homewood, a neighborhood on the East End of the city that has been noted as a one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the area.  Homewood is no stranger to crime, and has much higher poverty rates than the rest of Pittsburgh. Still, Geyer was undeterred.

“When we built the place, we heard people say ‘Why would anyone do anything in Homewood, ever?’” Geyer said.

With the help of The Wheel Mill’s trustee, a Homewood nonprofit aimed at developing community infrastructure called Operation Better Block, Inc., Geyer is hoping to change people’s impressions of the neighborhood.

“We have people coming from all over the country, and all over the world. We’ve had people from 28 different states, and people from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Spain.”

Geyer grew up in Lawrenceville, another neighborhood in Pittsburgh that has experienced a boom in economic redevelopment over the course of the last decade.

“I’ve seen, firsthand, a neighborhood go from having some major problems to turning around, and I’m hoping I can be a part of that here in Homewood.”

With the $5,000 Kiva Zip loan, Geyer was able to hire two employees, and revamp the entryway and retail room by expanding the space and installing new flooring and display cases. Geyer felt that the Kiva Zip loan was a key component to his larger financial plan, and invigorating in the way it created connection with individual lenders.

“With Kiva, it’s just a different approach to lending money, where you are weighted more on your intent to pay back versus just your capability to pay it back. It’s refreshing, and it helps to snap you out of the way you think about debt in a way that is really inspiring.”

The Wheel Mill, located at 6815 Hamilton Avenue, is open Monday through Friday 2pm-10pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10am-10pm.

Help other entrepreneurs make a positive change in their neighborhoods by lending to their businesses here.


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