Chelsea Piers Fitness, offering a luxury fitness experience in the heart of New York City, will soon open the doors of a brand-new facility in Brooklyn. Set to open at the beginning of June, the new Chelsea Piers Fitness facility is cutting edge and aimed at providing a community-oriented fitness experience to the surrounding neighborhoods.
For insight on the new location, its facility highlights and its impact on Brooklyn, Club Solutions spoke to David Tewksbury, the owner of Chelsea Piers Fitness:
CS: Talk about the new club — what will some of the highlights be?
DT: We’re actually nearing completion of construction. The club will open June 1 and it’s in downtown Brooklyn. It’s approximately 50,000 square feet of interior space, and we’re located in the base of a brand new 750-unit rental apartment building, one of literally a dozen that have been built in the past five years in the downtown Brooklyn area. We’re pretty excited — we think we’ve put together a luxury product in a very densely populated urban market that is starved for high-quality fitness and recreation. We have an extraordinary space — the ceiling heights are 16 to 20 feet, the volume of space over two levels is great, we took out a large section of the floor so they have an atrium feeling between the first and second floors. We have a beautiful indoor pool as well.
CS: What’s your hope in opening this new facility?
DT: The goal is — we have 130,000 square-foot club in New York City at Chelsea Piers that we’ve operated for the last 20-plus years, and we’ve decided to take a serious foray into the adult membership, club fitness business. We’re trying to firmly establish ourselves as a premium brand in a relatively cluttered industry and I think our approach is to take a traditional gym space with weights, functional training and cardio, and add boutique-quality group fitness opportunities to that. I’m talking about yoga, Pilates, HITT, and indoor cycling, and really deliver to the consumer the best of both worlds. You don’t need to pay $30 or $40 to take a one-hour indoor cycling class — we will be delivering high-quality, indoor cycling as part of a luxury gym product. We have five separate studios in the club: one for cycling, one for group fitness, one for regular yoga, one for hot yoga and one for Pilates. So we’re really putting a very strong emphasis on group fitness. If you check our class schedule in New York, we offer about 150 classes a week, and if you look at our schedule in Brooklyn, we will open with about 80 classes and quickly climb to over 100 in September.
CS: Can you talk about the challenges of opening a club in Brooklyn?
DT: The main challenge with a lot of people in urban fitness is finding the right piece of real estate. We were fortunate to have partnered with a very large New York real estate developer called TF Cornerstone, and they were very excited to get a luxury fitness brand into their building as an amenity for their residents. We were able to secure 52,000 square feet on very favorable terms, and the building subsidizes the membership rate for all residents.
CS: What sort of response have you gotten from the surrounding neighborhoods?
DT: Brooklyn is going through a major redevelopment surge, but we’re also immediately adjacent to some of the more historic neighborhoods in Brooklyn, including Borough Hill, Fort Green and Brooklyn Heights. We have a very significant number of people who have lived in the Brooklyn neighborhoods for many, many years and they’ve responded very enthusiastically. Our presales have been rapid. People are wildly enthusiastic — we opened up a showroom two blocks from the sight, and I think we’ve already become a fixture in the community. We’ve got members and local residents dropping in to talk to our staff, we’ve been hosting Saturday morning run clubs for the last two months, and next week we start a “Yoga in the Park” series in Fort Green Park that we’ll lead for the next 16 weeks. We’ve really tried to create a club experience people really feel connected to as opposed to just dropping in for a 60-minute workout. The club has three basic components — one is the physical workout. We have all the equipment and functional training you can imagine. The second is the programming where we have a very big commitment to yoga, Pilates, barre, cycling and group fitness. The third component, which we think is unique, is a very large common area for members to use. It has comfortable lounge furniture, library-style work tables, a large café with food service from fresh&co, which is a local farm-to-table food service operator. We’re trying to build a sense of community. We have local artists doing major installations in the club, and we’ll have artist talks and book talks — these are different community events to make people feel connected.
CS: What does this new club mean for Chelsea Piers Fitness?
DT: What it means for the rest of our company is we’re going in the fitness business in a big way. We’re cautiously optimistic Brooklyn will be a significant success and we’re starting to seek spots for third, fourth and fifth locations. Initially, we’re New York-focused, perhaps moving out to the Tri-State region. We have a beautiful club up in Stanford, Connecticut, but Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens are pretty big markets and underserved in terms of quality fitness operators.
CS: Anything else you’re excited about?
DT: I’m excited about our management team, which is principally Brooklyn-based. Keeth Smart is our general manager, Darren Nixon is our director of membership, and they’ve been on the ground in the neighborhood since January 1. It’s a very strong team, and we have about a dozen people in key positions all over. The focus on developing first-rate programming for all our fitness classes is exciting too. We can have a beautiful space, but we’ve got to give people a reason to keep coming back, and we view that reason as being great programming.