The Cedar Grove Civic Association held a special meeting on Tuesday evening to review plans for a proposed Boston Sports Club at 540 Gallivan Boulevard— one of the village’s most prominent properties that also includes an adjacent, privately-owned parking lot that has long been heavily used by neighborhood residents and other businesses. Neighbors see the proposal for a new fitness center as a chance to upgrade and improve safety in the heart of the busy business district.
Boston Sports Club (BSC) intends to open its 31st location in the first floor of the building most recently occupied by a Rite Aid pharmacy. Attorney Larry DiCara, a former Boston City Councillor who is representing Supreme Realty Trust — the business entity that owns the building that will lease space to BSC— presented the plans for the renovations and re-use of the site.
The change in the building’s use from retail to a fitness center will require approvals from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which DiCara expects to seek this fall. Renovations to the parking lot and the building would take place throughout the winter and the fitness center could open by the spring of 2014. Sean Weir, president of the Cedar Grove Civic Association, said that he expects the group will vote on the proposal sometime in the next two months.
“We think the way it’ll be will be better than what it’s been,” DiCara said. Dating himself, DiCara referred to the site as “the Supreme Market building”— a reference to the site’s earlier history as a busy supermarket before its conversion to a pharmacy and health and beauty store in recent years.
BSC will offer cardiovascular and weight training as well as a large studio space for fitness classes such as yoga, pilates and spinning. The company, which operates in Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, will offer between 20 and 40 jobs for a combination of full and part-time employees for training, managing, greeting, custodial and other roles.
The fitness center would also include an open “field” area for cross-training — a first for the chain— but will not include a pool or athletic court. The main entrance would remain in the rear of the building facing the parking lot.
Under the existing plan, the re-configured parking area will actually consist of two lots: The first is laid out as a landscaped area of 98 spaces directly behind the building that will feature priority parking for the gym’s members and another lot of 75 spaces for community use. The new lot will be of a standard design, according to engineer Karen Wynne. It will be fully renovated, with new pavement and landscaping and will maintain all the existing access points except for the first Minot Street entrance. With neighborhood approval, work on the lot could begin shortly.
DiCara said that Thomas Cifrino, a principal of the realty trust that owns the building and parking lot, will take over the maintenance and management of the lot — roles that had previously been ceded to anchor tenants, such as Rite AID.
The current condition of the parking lot was a topic of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting. One attendee brought up an incident on Sunday in which a teenager is alleged to have been injured when her foot was punctured by a hypodermic needle as she walked through the lot. After multiple requests for video surveillance in the revamped lot, the BSC has agreed to look into the technology. Sean Weir, the Cedar Grove Civic president, cautioned that the issue of discarded needles is not specific to any one property— public or private. Weir plans to focus the next meeting of the civic association— set for Sept. 10— on the issue of drug abuse, needles and other related problems.
Neighbors attending the meeting Tuesday night to discuss the plan varied on how they referred to the building and adjacent parking lot, with some older residents referring to the site by the names of former supermarkets that occupied the site. Some younger folks called it by the name of one of the several pharmacies which operated there. Rite Aid pharmacy closed in March of this year, leaving the 18,000 square foot first floor space vacant. The three-story building, constructed in 1934, also houses Supreme Liquors, College Hype and other small businesses.
The meeting filled St. Brendan’s Church’s Fr. Lane Hall to standing room only and attracted the attention of several elected officials and political candidates.
After a briefing from the gym’s representatives on the design of the gym, discussion at the meeting centered on the changes to available parking for the neighborhood. Many were concerned that the new restrictions and “members only” spaces would hurt access to other businesses in the area.
“We’re going to lose business and [our] business was here first,” one woman commented.
However, several proponents of the plan noted that the lot is private property and said that the renovation will benefit the community. BSC representatives said the gym will be busiest before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. and many spaces may be open during local businesses’ operating hours.