National fitness chain plans to open near 23rd and Iowa streets

photo by: Richard Gwin

This file photo from June 2016 shows the Hastings bookstore building at 1900 W 23rd St.

And you thought picking up the entire collection of “Twilight” novels at Hastings constituted heavy lifting. Now, there is word of true heavy lifting at the vacant book and video store at 23rd and Iowa streets. The national chain Crunch Fitness has announced it is moving into the space.

I recently had begun hearing some rumblings in the commercial real estate world that a fitness center was looking at the old Hastings site, and on Wednesday Crunch announced that it plans to open in the shopping center that includes Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, Cork & Barrel liquor store and others.

I put a call into the company but haven’t had any luck getting in touch with an actual person. A recorded message, though, said the renovation of the old book store would be a $3 million project, and the gym planned to open in December. The company plans to start taking membership money in November, it appears.

A word of caution on the timeline: The company still needs to be issued a building permit and have some minor site plan issues resolved as part of that process, according to the city. Keep that in mind if you are on a workout schedule. (Personally, I’m very patient with workout times. I waited a whole decade, once.)

As for Crunch Fitness, it looks like the company started in 1989 in a basement space in New York’s East Village. The company now has about 175 Crunch Fitness and Crunch Signature locations across the country.

Memberships appear to start at about $10 per month but get more expensive if you add on packages that allow you to take certain classes or use certain amenities, according to the company’s website.

Based on plans shown on the company’s website, the Lawrence facility will have all the traditional weight-lifting equipment, a cycling studio, lots of treadmills and other cardio equipment, an area for group fitness and something called The HIITZone, which is where the center offers its “high intensity training program.” It looked like it has an area for flipping tires and the whole works.

The website also talks about some other amenities such as online nutrition programs, live video workouts, an area with hydromassage beds and a tanning booth area.

The phone message that I listened to indicated the fitness club was going to occupy the former entire Hastings space. It calls for the club to be 35,000 square feet, which will make it one of the larger fitness centers in the city. It also is one of the closest fitness centers to the University of Kansas campus. Crunch’s entry into the market may well create some spirited competition for fitness club members.

The plans for Crunch do seem to answer a question about the future of that shopping center. As we have reported, a group led by one of the richest men in America bought the shopping center several months ago. Stan Kroenke, the Columbia, Mo., billionaire bought the Hastings building and other parts of the shopping center. Kroenke, who is an owner of the Los Angeles Rams, the Denver Nuggets and other professional sports teams, does do a lot of property development, both retail and hotel uses. That had led some to wonder whether Kroenke was buying the Lawrence property as part of a redevelopment idea. A lease with Crunch, though, would indicate that no such redevelopment is imminent, if even planned.

The Crunch facility also continues a trend of longtime vacancies beginning to fill along 23rd Street. The former Hobby Lobby store is partially filled with a new Harbor Freight tool store, which is now open. The former Bargain Depot building near 23rd and Harper also has found a tenant. As we’ve reported, a self-storage business is going into that space. The long vacant former post office building that once also housed Half-Price Books also is being filled. As we’ve reported, it will be a dog day care business.

This story was updated at 1:45 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2018 to clarify the status of the projects permits with Lawrence City Hall.


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