The 5,000-square-foot building next to Tara Watson's chiropractic practice was set up for a restaurant. But after buying the space about a year ago, Watson thought, "Do we really need another one of those?" she says. "No. We needed something for people to actually do."
Once Watson learned there was no place for adults to workout in north Minneapolis, she decided: She would open a gym. But first she had to convince other people that the neighborhood was ready for it.
[jump] Watson's building is near the corner of West Broadway and Penn Ave., in the heart of north Minneapolis. There are two Ys in the area, but one is for kids and teens and one is focused on adults over 55. Further south, near the North Loop, there are workout studios that offer classes, but no general exercise space.
Despite the open market, when Watson initially approached corporate gyms to talk franchising, "They said it was an undesirable area," she says. "But they didn't have updated information."
Watson worked with the city to get recent demographic data, and was able to show prospective gyms that her block was experiencing a revitalization. Within a one-mile radius of the West Broadway and Penn intersection, Watson pointed out, more and more households qualify as "middle and upper income," median home value is on the upswing, and over 75 percent of residents carry at least a high school diploma.
Excited neighbors have been peering through the windows, wanting to see how the space is progressing, Watson says. Count Don Samuels, city council member for the area, among the enthusiastic.
"It is just incredible that [Watson]... can create this first-time facility in north Minneapolis," he told the Star Tribune's Eric Roper. A business that responds to the community's demographics, "rather than the reputation," has a "huge" significance, Samuels added.
Watson is currently planning on opening her new location before the end of the year. Monthly membership fees are still undetermined, but will be below $50. "We're going to have tanning, massages, personal trainers," Watson says. "There's going to be something for everyone."