After two long years in the making, Columbia Association is days away from opening a one-of-a-kind wellness retreat on the downtown Columbia lakefront.
The facility, which cost $5.2 million to build, is located in the basement of the former Rouse Company building that now houses the county's first Whole Foods Market.
The approximately 27,000-square-foot facility, called Haven on the Lake, is billed by CA officials as a unique, regional destination unlike the organization's existing fitness offerings throughout Columbia.
"It's like nothing else this community has ever seen," said Rob Goldman, CA's chief operating officer.
Goldman said the combination of Haven's wellness offerings under one roof and the setting – the facility has multiple views of Columbia's Lake Kittamaqundi – are what set it apart.
"It's a unique and special program offering in an amazing setting," Goldman said.
The facility includes three exercise studios inspired by European and Asian mind-body routines, such as Pilates, yoga, tai chi, Qi gong, barre. A "healing environment" area will feature an exercise pool, hot tub with a waterfall, a crystal salt room, tropical shower, steam room and cold plunge. A wellness spa features integrated medicine from The Still Point spa, which opened Dec. 6.
Goldman said Haven will also sell pre-packaged food delivered daily from Whole Foods in a small cafe. He added that it also has a 7,000-square-foot patio overlooking the lake that will be used to host classes when the weather is good.
Goldman said one of the studios includes a "yoga wall," which he said is a unique regional offering. He added that Haven will offer a "robust" class schedule, "some of which no one else is doing anywhere." He said CA will offer preferred placement for members at an added cost, meaning you can reserve your spot in a particular class each week.
He added that Haven will also offer child care at the facility, a feature called KidSpace that is offered at other CA gyms.
Haven will employ 100 people including Goldman, who will serve as interim general manager of the facility until a full-time general manager is hired.
Emily Talbot, of Colorado, was originally selected for the job, but resigned last month due to personal reasons, Goldman said.
CA will begin the process of selecting a new general manager sometime in January, Goldman said, after the facility has gotten off the ground.
Assisting Goldman in running the facility will be Holly Stover, a 25-year CA employee who has served as assistant general manager to a number of CA facilities, will help Goldman run the facility as acting assistant manager. She currently is Organizational Customer Service Manager for CA.
CA is offering a variety of membership packages for Haven, and Goldman said last week that 750 members have signed up. He said they hope to have a little more than 2,000 in a couple years.
Haven will not require a membership to use, unlike some of CA's other facilities.
"Anyone can come in at any time and get a spa service or take or class or pay for one day," Goldman said.
The Still Point
While CA is prepping to open Haven to the masses this week, their partner, The Still Point, has already opened their portion of the facility to the public.
The 4,500-square-foot spa is the Still Point's third location – the other two are in Takoma Park and Clarksville – and it offers acupuncture, holistic skin care, naturopathic medicine and massage therapy. The facility has nine treatment rooms, with four more to be built in the future; men's and women's meditation rooms; a manicure and pedicure room; and a consultation room for the naturopathic doctor.
A small retail portion sells products developed by the spa's co-owners, Tori Paide and Marla Peoples, called TOMA Skin Therapies.
Karen Milling, manager of The Still Point's Haven location, said having CA's facility adjacent to the spa creates a unique synergy for the customer.
"When you have services here at the spa, you can also take advantage of the healing environments. It really enhances the spa experience in that way," she said.
She added: "It encompasses a lot of things under one roof. It's like a destination spa experience in a day spa location."
Milling said the prime location in downtown Columbia, in addition to the CA partnership, was a huge draw for the business.
"It feels like it's a community that's very seeded in wellness," she said of Columbia.