Chicago Athletic Clubs Plan to Expand Chain to North Avenue in Bucktown

By Alisa Hauser on February 19, 2013 11:15am 

 A zoning application was filed Feb. 13 to turn a four-story vacant building at 2040 W. North Ave. (known as the Marvin Envelope Building) from a manufacturing designation into a B3-3 community shopping district. The developers plan to build a health club and 16-unit apartment building with 20 parking spaces.
A zoning application was filed Feb. 13 to turn a four-story vacant building at 2040 W. North Ave. (known as the Marvin Envelope Building) from a manufacturing designation into a B3-3 community shopping district. The developers plan to build a health club and 16-unit apartment building with 20 parking spaces.
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Jonathan Splitt Architects

BUCKTOWN —  An ambitious project to transform a vacant industrial building into the Chicago Athletic Club's seventh city outpost might finally happen, now that it's been scaled back from four floors to two and includes apartment rentals.

A work permit for masonry repair, tuck pointing and replacing 58 windows appeared Friday in the window of the Marvin Envelope Building at 2040 W. North Ave, which was purchased in October 2010 by Marc Realty.

Built in 1908, the building, which contains brick on three sides and a limestone facade, is located just west of the Milwaukee-Damen-North avenues intersection. 

Marc Realty's project manager Rich Krueger said Tuesday that work will begin "as soon as the bricklayer thinks it's warm enough."

Earlier this month, members of the Wicker Park Committee voted 15-1 in favor of amending the zoning from its existing manufacturing designation to a B3-3 Community Shopping District.

The rezoning would enable Marc Realty to build a two-story health club with two floors of rental apartments above it. 

According to a Feb. 13 public notice affixed to the building, there are 20 permanent parking spaces planned for the development, too.

Back in September 2010, the developer had its sights set on opening a 37,000-square-foot, four-story complex with a swimming pool on the roof.

However, "we had to abandon those plans," said Chicago Athletic Club's CEO Pat Cunningham. 

The new plan, created by architect Jonathan Splitt, includes a partnership with Chicago Apartment Finders, which will build, lease and manage the third and fourth floors of the building, slated to contain 16 one- and two-bedroom apartments, ranging from 658 to 1,310 square feet.

Cunningham compared the design of the future club, which includes fitness studios, cardio and rowing machines, a lounge area and coffee bar, to the Wicker Park Athletic Club, which Chicago Athletic Clubs opened in May in a former U.S. Post Office branch at 1635 W. Division St.

"We're very into restoring old buildings and coming up with creative reuses," Cunningham said.

Teddy Varndell, president of the Wicker Park Committee, lauded the newly-revised plan and said he submitted a letter to Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) Tuesday indicating the group's support.

The building is now in the 32nd Ward, though will be in Ald. Bob Fioretti's (2nd) ward when the new map goes into effect.

"The big issue before was a a four-floor gymnasium. We couldn't see how they were going to solve the parking issue. They came back with a proposal that solved that," said Varndell.

Two years ago, Varndell was among three citizens who objected to Marc Realty's special use zoning request, along with Jaime Rodriguez, owner of Bucktown Fitness Club at 2100 W. North Ave.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Rodriguez said that now that there's a plan to have apartments on the top two stories instead of more health club space "it eliminates the parking problem."

Addressing the similar names between his business "Bucktown Fitness Club" and "Bucktown Athletic Club," Rodriguez said "[Chicago Athletic Clubs] did the same thing on Division Street to those other guys," referring to Wicker Park Fitness, at 1735 W. Division St.,  one block west of the chain's Wicker Park Athletic Club at 1635  W. Division St.

Rodriguez described his gym, which opened more than 20 years ago, as "a basic, non-fancy true neighborhood gym where people get a work out in and get out. 

Rodriguez speculated that the advertising campaigns by his new neighbor with a similar name will lead to new customers for his gym, which was also built on the grounds of a former manufacturing building and has apartments above it, too.

"They advertise big on TV, so it will bring clients to me, in reality," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez added, "I agree with the neighborhood, nobody wants a big vacant building there. [Marc Realty] bought the building and they need to do something with it."

The City Council typically votes on zoning matters at its regular meeting on the last Tuesday of the month, though as of today it's not on the agenda for the Feb. 26 meeting.

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