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December 11 , 2007

Upscale fitness club snags Oak Lawn spot

December 11, 2007 - by Steve Brown | The Dallas Morning News. A New York company that operates a nationwide chain of upscale fitness centers is leasing a prime Oak Lawn location.
Equinox Fitness Clubs will open in the former automobile dealership at the comer of Avondale and Oak Lawn avenues. The Manhattan-based firm plans a huge gym and spa with up to 45,000 square feet, plus 17,000 square feet of shopping space.
The Dallas location, just south of Highland Park, will be Equinox's first Texas outlet. "We view this as a great flagship location that can serve a variety of markets" in central Dallas, Peter Levine, Equinox's director of real estate, said Monday. "That location has the demographic we cater to.
"We feel the market is currently underserved, and we view it as a great opportunity."
Equinox Fitness Clubs operates 41 fitness centers in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Florida, Boston and San Francisco. The company has been in business since 1991.
Most of the locations range from 25,000 to 45,000 square feet and offer services including strength and cardio training, group fitness classes, personal training, spa services and products, apparel, and food and juice bars. Many of the clubs also have lap pools and day spas.
Mr. Levine said that Equinox plans to totally rebuild the former automobile sales facilities, which stretch for a block along Oak Lawn.
"We are bringing in international architects and look to create something special," he said. "What is there now is not in keeping with the residential market in that area." The project will include parking for several hundred cars on surface spaces and in existing parking garages.
"We want to create a destination that will draw people there several times a week," Mr. Levine said. "After the new year, we will be going to the marketplace to find the most appropriate retailers for the project."
"Hopefully, it will be a combination of national- and local-type tenants - possibly a restaurant use, too."
Because of the extensive reconstruction planned, Equinox doesn't expect to open its facility until early 2009.
The high-profile Oak Lawn strip was formerly occupied by Park Place Motorcars, which relocated its luxury sales center in 2005 to Lemmon Avenue.
A plan by Fort Worth-based developer Trademark Cos. to use the property for a high-rise mixed-use development didn't get off the ground.
Venture Commercial Real Estate negotiated the new lease with the Retail Connection. Equinox beat out a number of other companies for the prime site.
"There were developers from every product type interested - from apartments to retirement communities," said Venture partner Mike Geisler. "I didn't realize how amazingly strong that location is in the eyes of retailers."
Along with the Dallas location, Equinox has new facilities pending in New York, California, Florida and Virginia. "We are actively looking at other opportunities in the Dallas marketplace and other Texas opportunities," Mr. Levine said.
On average, Equinox charges $1,600 a year for single club use or $2,200 for nationwide access.
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