Columbia Association to open fitness club in Rouse Co. building

The Columbia Association announced plans Dec. 17 to open a modern, high-end fitness club overlooking Lake Kittamaqundi on the ground level of the former Rouse Co. building.

The downtown Columbia club is expected to open in the fall of 2014. CA members will pay an additional fee to use the facility.

According to CA spokesman David Greisman, the club will offer a different ambience than the three current CA fitness clubs — Supreme Sports Club in Owen Brown, Columbia Athletic Center in Harper's Choice and the Columbia Gym in River Hill.

"We anticipate that we will have unique programs, special services, more one on one interaction, and the most technologically advanced, top of the line equipment at this new club, surpassing even the excellent equipment, programs and services at our three other fitness facilities," Greisman said in an email.

CA signed an 11-year lease with the building owner, The Howard Hughes Corp., to occupy 27,000 square feet on the ground floor of the 151,000 square-foot building, which was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and opened in 1974.

Chief Operating Officer for CA Rob Goldman said preliminary estimates put the cost of the new club at $2.7 million, and CA will be making site visits to new, smaller fitness centers in Manhattan and Denver to research potential amenities.

The organization envisions utilizing the outdoor lakefront space for programming, Goldman said, and the new fitness club may offer smaller training studios for more intimate group training.

CA also plans on creating a pool for lap swimming and group exercise, according to Greisman.

CA President Phil Nelson called the building a focal point and said the new fitness club will be constructed to fit the needs of the downtown community.

The club's grand opening coincides with the scheduled opening of a 45,000 square-foot Whole Foods store in the building's first two levels.

In July, DeWolf and Howard Hughes announced plans to renovate the building and mentioned the possibility of adding a fitness center overlooking the lakefront on the ground floor.

Shortly afterward, Nelson said he and DeWolf had preliminary conversations about adding a new CA fitness facility in the building.

"If they were going to do a fitness center, that's kind of what we do," Nelson said. "It's a real opportunity for the redevelopment of downtown Columbia, and for residents to see we've made a commitment to the downtown."

Although CA has not yet reached out to Whole Foods, Goldman said the organization is hoping to create a synergy with the grocer by offering food and drink options at the facility.

Greisman said that while no plans are currently in place, CA may work with Whole Foods to coordinate a joint grand opening.

Revitalizing downtown

County Executive Ken Ulman said the announcement is just the latest in the series regarding the revitalization of downtown Columbia.

"When it was announced that Whole Foods would be leasing space in the former Rouse Co. headquarters, I predicted that it would be a catalyst that would set in motion a series of projects that would dramatically enhance our revitalization efforts," said Ulman. "(This announcement) enhances our vision of what one of America's best communities can be."

Earlier this year, Howard Hughes Corp. announced plans to develop a $100 million, 380-unit apartment complex, called the Metropolitan, west of the Mall in Columbia.

A few months later, Mall owners General Growth Properties announced plans to redevelop the area currently occupied by L.L. Bean into two restaurants, two cafes and eight to 10 retail stores.

Last week, the Howard County Planning Board approved final plans for the two projects. Construction on both projects is scheduled to begin in the spring.

In October, Clyde's restaurant, located on the downtown Columbia lakefront, announced it will close for six to eight weeks beginning in January for a $4 million renovation project.