The planned Columbia Association fitness club inside the former Rouse Co. building is being billed as mind-body wellness retreat where customers can "relax, retreat and rejuvenate," according to consultants hired by CA to study the project.

"People are saying, 'We need a place to escape,' " said Mark Williamson, principal at ClubIntel, CA's consulting firm.

"We came up with that tag line for the club because that's what people want to do. They want to relax, they want to retreat and rejuvenate."

ClubIntel used results from a random survey of CA members and non-members, Williamson said. The firm reached out to 2,000 people and 647 responded.


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Possible features for the club, which CA hopes to open by September 2014, could include two individual studios geared toward Asian and European mind-body routines — like Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Barre — a wellness spa, a center for alternative medicine, like acupuncture, a "wet wellness" center — which could include a whirlpool, sauna and tropical shower — a 60 foot recreational pool and relaxation areas, like a retreat style pool or meditation rooms.

"This will be focused on mindful exercises," Williamson said. "It's not a pampering spa, but a healthy therapeutic-type spa with complimentary alternative medicine."

In addition to offering the unique wellness services, the club, which will overlook Lake Kittamaqundi, also will have a cafe that sells pre-packaged food from the Columbia Whole Foods, which is scheduled to move into the Frank Gehry-designed building in the summer of 2014.

CA is considering putting a 500 square foot patio for the cafe by the building's north entrance, which opens to the fountain on the lakefront.

An additional 10,000 square foot of patio space east of the building, between the club and the lake, will also be utilized by the club for outdoor programming.

According to CA Chief Operating Officer Rob Goldman, CA has hired the Colorado-based architecture firm Essenza Architecture for the project, and hopes to begin construction in February 2014.

"Right now we are in the schematic design phase, which means we are laying out how everything is going to work together," Goldman said.

Goldman, who has shared a preliminary layout of the club with the CA board, said the club could be a "regional attraction," but cautioned that it is still subject to change.

"This is just the initial draft of what this going to look like," said Board member Suzanne Waller, the representative from Town Center. "It could change, and the people in the villages need to know that."

In December, CA announced the signing of an 11-year lease with Howard Hughes Corp., the building owner, to occupy 27,000 square feet of space for a fitness club. Original cost estimates for the club were approximately $2.7 million.

Survey says

The consultants recommended the concept over three alternatives based on the results from the survey, which overwhelmingly favored the mind-body theme.

"Mind-body has strong appeal and purchasing intent, and it had the greatest differentiation and it fit better than any other option," Williamson said. "In four out of the five categories we tested it was a leader."

Williamson and fellow ClubIntel Principal Stephen Tharrett were confident that the results were projectable throughout Columbia's population.

"I think this is being done right," said Board member Cynthia Coyle, representative from Harper's Choice. "This was a scientific study. When we go out to audience and ask people to come and speak, it tends to be not random. It is the people who are vocal."

The survey also revealed a pricing analysis, which showed non-CA members would be willing to pay between $80-90 monthly for access to the club, while Package Plan Plus members, CA's highest level of membership, would be willing to pay $25 extra dollars a month.

CA also may explore offering full-day and half-day memberships to cater to groups and special events.

However, Goldman said CA still is in the process of working out a membership/fee structure, and that nothing has been finalized.

"I know many are concerned about membership and fee structure, but that will be dealt with as part of the 2015 and 2016 budget," Goldman said. "We have a subcommittee working on that and will make sure that is a major piece of the budget process."

bcommittee working on that and will make sure that is a major piece of the budget process."