Things may have got off to a slower-than-expected start for a new Planet Fitness gym at a long-vacant former car dealership in the heart of Roxborough’s business district, but work is in full swing now.
Because the gym is allowed by-right in that commercial zone, there was no need for the owners of the property at 6225 Ridge Ave., the former Golden Chrysler Plymouth dealership, to seek approval from the city’s zoning board. But they did meet with the Central Roxborough Civic Association, and met with adjacent neighbors to discuss some concerns with the plan. The former dealership sat empty and boarded-up for several years, a blank spot on an otherwise bustling stretch of the Ridge Avenue shopping district.
Now, workers have been on site bringing down much of the old building, though the gym will be built on roughly the same footprint. Bernard Guet, executive director of the Roxborough Development Corporation, said the use of that property as a gym is a good fit for the RDC’s goals for Ridge Avenue — namely, giving people a variety of reasons to shop, eat, work and now to work out in Roxborough.
“This is a different kind of business that we don’t have on Ridge Avenue now,” he said. “This will draw people from Mt. Airy, from Germantown, and maybe they’re going to buy a sandwich or do other things while they’re here. That is part of our overall plan, we want more diversity of business.”
Guet and Ed Hotham, president of the Central Roxborough Civic Association, both said the gym’s developers — who have maintained a low profile, preferring to communicate through their attorney, Ronald Patterson — made a good effort to communicate their plans to the community. There were some concerns about lighting, and whether the powerful light stanchions used at the car dealership could be altered, and additional landscaping will be done on the site to buffer it from nearby homes. Also, Hotham said, the developers plan to widen the sidewalk along Ridge Avenue to make it more pedestrian-friendly.
Right now, it’s unclear when the gym will open — after initial presentations, Guet said, the gym was supposed to be open by the first of this year. It seems more likely that the gym would instead be open in time for next January’s influx of members who may have made getting fit their New Year’s resolution, he said.
According to its corporate information and a packet distributed to residents last year, Planet Fitness is a $500 million a year business and one of the nation’s fastest-growing health club chains.
While renderings of what the new Ridge Avenue site will look like have not been publicly released, Guet said it would likely follow a format similar to other Planet Fitness sites, with a boxy design and large front windows.
The property is owned by a Bryn Mawr-based partnership, Ridge Avenue 6219-6239 LLC, which purchased it in October for $1.85 million, according to city tax records. Under the city’s proposed 2014 valuation, the property — and its tax bill — would jump from an assessed value of $116,032 with an $11,300 tax bill to an assessed value of nearly $1.5 million, with a tax bill that remains unclear while the city hammers out its new system.
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