Columbia's planned wellness facility

A graphic rendering of the healing waters section of the Columbia Association's downtown lakefront wellness retreat. (Provided by the Columbia Association / February 20, 2014)

When the Columbia Association announced last year the $2.7 million wellness facility planned for the downtown lakefront would be a mind and body retreat, it was clear the 27,000-square-foot space would be a departure from CA's existing programming.

On Saturday, March 1, those interested in the project will get an opportunity to learn just how different Haven on the Lake will be at a preview event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Historic Oakland in Town Center.

The retreat, which will be below a Whole Foods, is expected to open in September and will house three exercise studios, a wellness spa featuring integrated medicine from the Still Point spa, and a "healing waters" area featuring an exercise pool, hot tub, salt room, a tropical shower and a cold plunge.

The retreat will be available to CA package plan members and nonmembers at an additional cost through a variety of membership options, which offer varying levels of access to the retreat.

Stephen Tharrett, principal of ClubIntel, a consultant hired by CA, said the event, which will offer people an opportunity to sign up for memberships, will be "a coming out party" for the retreat.

"It will be a chance for the public to know what Haven on the Lake is all about," Tharrett said, adding, "There is nothing quite like the Haven. You are used to a certain experience, and when you go to Haven on the Lake, it will be different. That's part of the intent, it is truly designed to be an escape or oasis. ... [March 1] is an opportunity for people to get immersed into that experience before any walls go up."

The event will offer short demonstration classes and information about the retreat's programming, which includes Pilates, yoga, tai chi, qigong barre.

The event will also offer information about the spa offerings from the Still Point, a Clarksville-based wellness spa that also has a facility in Takoma Park. According to Marla Peoples, co-owner of the Still Point, the Haven location will be the company's largest at 4,600 square feet and will employ up to 50 people.

Peoples echoed Tharrett in touting the nature of the facility.

"There are places that try to do the same thing, but they don't have the CA brand," Peoples said.

Peoples added she thinks CA's decision to offer more wellness options will be a boon, given recent industry trends.

"People want to be more proactive in their healing instead of reactive," she said. "It's being able to focus on the physical as well as the emotional and mental. You can go to the gym and exercise, but you can leave the gym and be just as stressed as when you arrived. A mind-body retreat is a place you where you walk in and you feel like you just exhaled."

According to Rob Goldman, CA's chief operating officer and vice president, the organization is in the process of recruiting a general manager to run the facility. Goldman said CA has narrowed down the approximately 60 applications down to eight candidates. Goldman said applications came in from all over the United States, and CA is looking for someone with experience running a wellness-centric club.

Goldman said the general manager will make a salary between $66,000 and $99,000, based on their experience.

CA hopes to finalize the hire by April, Goldman said.

In addition to the March 1 event, a trailer where interested people can learn about the retreat, and receive membership information, will be set up next month in the parking lot of the Rouse Co. building. Goldman said CA intends to have the trailer open seven days a week.