Revitalization

New Fitness Club Pulls Into Parking Lot

By Jason Leach
Published February 18, 2010

All those callers to CHML yesterday who said downtown is dead and nobody works or lives there would be perplexed to see a new fitness club being built here.

The Augusta Athletic Club is going to - gulp - build their facility on a - gasp - parking lot downtown! The demolition companies are NOT going to be happy about this.

It's next door to the Pheasant Plucker on the west side. The website says, "We'll be breaking ground shortly."

I've always wished that something would get built on those parking lots that surround the Plucker.

This is great news and a great amenity for downtown residents.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2010 at 17:18:01

Really nice/upscale facility, it seems, and a good location.

I like this project. Even if I'll never afford (or want to afford) anything beyond Goodlife again, it's a good amenity to have.

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By Good News! (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2010 at 21:10:07

Another good news story! Great location, I'm sure this will appeal to some of those who use the Hamilton GO Station.

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted February 18, 2010 at 23:45:21

Great news! This should provide a much-need jolt of energy for the James South neighborhood. Much as I love the pubs in the area, it will also give people a reason to go there other than for eating or drinking. Hope to see renderings when they're available, and that the building will fit in with the existing architecture of the area.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 09:36:24

This is brilliant. It looks as though they'll have squash ... so, finally a proper replacement for the Thistle Club.

Along with the announcement of a second location of My Dog Joe on James North, this may be the beginning of the turning of the corner in the gentrification of downtown ... and, it's being built on a vacant lot! Finally, a meaningful infill project.

Honestly, one of the things which has prevented me from seriously considering moving downtown has been the absence of a proper fitness club.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 10:04:44

That's pretty amazing. I spend alot of time across the street from this parking lot and don't appreciate such a gaping hole in this 'district'. Now I wonder what the chances are of this thing actually fronting Augusta?

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2010 at 12:20:14

Also, the employment opportunities it provides (for everything from front desk to cleaning contracts to trainers) will be a benefit to this area. Fitness clubs employ a wide range of skill sets and knowledge levels.

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By Dog Lover (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 22:35:29

Another My Dog Joe? Where on James? I love that place, and have been dying from the lack of something similar downtown.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 19, 2010 at 23:12:50

My Dog Joe will occupy the ground floor of the old Hotel Hamilton at James and Mulberry. Supposed to open April 1, but we'll see how reno's go. A nice sunny patio too. It should be awesome down there.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted February 22, 2010 at 10:51:23

Someone posted this on the Canada Bread post:

This announcement of 300 jobs and millions in taxes paid is half good and half bad but the possibility of a fitness club downtown opening on Augusta (believe it when you see it - press releases are easy - see your boy Harry) employing about 97% less people is a great thing?

A new development downtown is significant because it produces benefits disproportionate to its size. Compared to greenfield developments which replace nothing with revenue, any downtown greyfield development replaces an economic drain with revenue. This is because of externalities. Vacant land downtown perpetuates a cycle of disinvestment in which customers are repelled from the area, and businesses suffer further. A reversal of that cycle will bring customers to the new facility and also to those surrounding it. Furthermore as public perception of the area increases so will everyone's customer base. This synergetic effect is the basis of functional urban economics - see Ryan's many essays on the Creative City theme. A new fitness club may only be few employees, but the money it makes, as well as what nearby establishments bring in as a result, is money that stays in the community.

Contrast that scenario with a greenfield business park. That land in its former incarnanation was not an economic drain - more likely it was a net producer in the form of food. The city has already invested in development and infrastructure, in this case hundreds of millions. A bread factory does not work in synergy with surrounding businesses to bring wealth into the community. The only revenue we can expect is the taxes they pay, while profits are funneled elsewhere. Aside from potential business from outside contracting of engineering and trades support, the only positive spinoff we will see is low end food service, again paying low tax rates and funnelling profits elsewhere.

I'm confident that even for a few employees, the total economic performance of anything good built on a downtown parking lot will exceed that of a bread factory built on farmland.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 22, 2010 at 16:18:23

Why is nobody talking about the low wages being paid by the owners of this fitness club the way they are bashing Canada Bread about their "low wages"?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 22, 2010 at 21:08:35

probably because nobody at the EcDev department or the media are falling all over themselves and trying to convince the public that Hamilton is about to become a booming jobs mecca because of the athletic club.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:53:15

hahaha I also love how the Media made sure to point out that we're 'stealing' these jobs from Torontonians (like that's a good thing??)

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted February 23, 2010 at 16:46:07

Not to mention that higher-end fitness clubs stay that way because they pay for excellent service -- while Goodlife's become a screaming nightmare for many people all over the map because they pay disinterested college kids the lowest possible wage to stand behind a desk. (I'd still go there if I could though).

I had looked into a job at the Yorkville Club Uptown in Toronto when I lived near there. I was quite surprised at how much they were offering for a position requiring not much beyond customer service skills and the ability to get there at 5:30 a.m.

Higher-end businesses, whatever the type, demand a higher level of service and thus very often pay better wages. For example, you'll get paid $15+/hour to wash dishes at the Prince of Wales in NOTL or even more to be a hostess at Auberge du Pommier near York Mills (friends of mine have worked at both while going through school).

In that way, having these business that exist "for rich folks" do help create higher-paying jobs that are relatively unskilled - which does help reduce poverty (and/or give high school and college students decent wages for work at their level).

Plus, as mentioned, fitness clubs employ a range of knowledge levels and skill sets, especially if you get into personal training, nutrition, class instructors, etc. - I'm not sure how much of that this club will have.

Comment edited by Meredith on 2010-02-23 15:46:56

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2010 at 17:33:01

Just what I need, a bunch of squash playing lefties who can bench press 300lbs. Damn you Augusta!

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted February 24, 2010 at 01:45:04

Have any of you been to the fitness club on Locke?? Absolutely beautiful place. Already full of members as well I hear.

And no, I'm not a member nor do I have any vested interest in it either, just checked it out.

Comment edited by woody10 on 2010-02-24 00:45:55

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 24, 2010 at 11:43:32

apparently they are expanding already into the ground floor space underneath the current gym.

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By Skully (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2010 at 10:01:39

Just read on the club's website that this project is dead due to lack of demand. Just another project that is announced to much fanfare, but never comes to fruition...seems to be par for the course for downtown, eh?

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