When the Wild Oats grocery store at SE 30th and Division closed over a year ago, neighborhood residents and business owners were worried that the big, block-long retail space would sit vacant for a long time, putting a damper on that stretch of the retail strip.
So last fall, when the building's owner—ADG III LLC, headed up by Stan Amy, a Nature's and New Seasons founder—announced plans for a Synergy gym, neighbors were largely willing to back the plan. The proposed 33,000-square-foot "full-service health and fitness center" runs contrary to a neighborhood plan that doesn't allow retail businesses larger than 10,000 square feet, except for grocery stores; neighborhood groups sent letters of support to the city as the gym owners sought a rule adjustment. A big gym—even one affiliated with the Gold's Gym chain, as Synergy is—neighbors reasoned, was certainly better than an empty grocery store. The city granted the adjustment on January 31, and neighbors have been attending meetings to give input on the details of the gym, which could open by the end of the year.
But now other neighbors—specifically, the current owner and a former owner of another gym on 41st and Division—are appealing the gym proposal. Bob Hill, who owns Loprinzi's Gym, and former owner Forest Hofer say the new gym is too big for Division, and puts their smaller, older gym at risk. Plus, they say, a chain—"Gold's is the Wal-Mart of the gym industry," says Hofer—has no place on Division, a strip dotted with mom-and-pop businesses. "They can put other businesses in there," says Hill.
Hofer, for his part, says the proposal is "a sell job" that gave the neighborhood a false choice: a massive gym or an empty building. "They're implying that if they don't put this gym in here, nothing else good will go into that building," he says, contending that it's not true. "[Amy] could do all kinds of stuff. He could come up with something."
Amy, however, sees the center—which will be "focused more broadly on the issue of health and fitness"—as the right project for the neighborhood and the big space: He believes it leaves room for other niche neighborhood gyms, like Loprinzi's, while also offering many of the things neighbors asked for during multiple meetings (like child care, diverse classes, and maybe even a swimming pool).
A hearing on the appeal is scheduled for March 20.