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Blink Fitness to Launch 125th Street Gym in New Retail Complex Friday

By Jeff Mays | June 20, 2013 1:56pm

HARLEM — Let the gym wars of 125th Street begin.

Starting Friday, Blink Fitness will open the fifth major gym at Frederick Douglass Boulevard in a new retail complex on Harlem's main thoroughfare, joining a New York Sports Club across the street, two Planet Fitness gyms and a Lucille Roberts.

"One reason why we wanted to be in Harlem is there is a lot of activity and new businesses and a reemergence of that area. We offer something different from all the competition," said Joy Altimare, director of marketing at Blink Fitness.

Blink Fitness is opening in a new 100,000-square-foot, four-story complex at 301-303 W. 125th St., which will also include a DSW, the city's first Joe's Crab Shack and a Party City.

Blink Fitness is the low-priced outlet of the Equinox brand and the 125th Street branch is the store's 15th location in New York and New Jersey.

Memberships are $15 and $20 per month, including an option with added value to bring one guest at each visit.

Planet Fitness memberships are $10 per month with a premium $20 per month option while New York Sports Club has memberships in the $60 to $90 per month range, according to its website.

The different price points are why Barbara Askins, president and CEO of the 125th Street Business Improvement District, thinks the gym market is not yet overcrowded.

"Having the option to choose is best for the customers," Askins said. "Their price point is one that fits Harlem and they see this as a lucrative market for that price point."

Askins said Blink Fitness has been aggressive about community involvement, looking to hire workers from the neighborhood and volunteering for efforts to help improve 125th Street.

"Our real estate philosophy is to partner with the local community and be in locations that are a hub," Altimare said. "This new building is an investment in a community and we want to be a part of that. We are investing because we want to be here for many years."

With 125th Street booming with new retail developments such as a Red Lobster next to the Apollo Theater and a Whole Foods and Burlington Coat Factory planned for 125th Street and Lenox Avenue, there is concern that the street will lose some of its flavor.

Askins disagrees.

"People from Harlem go to many of those shops that are moving here anyway; they just go Downtown," Askins said. "We still have the culture and the people and what it stands for but the conversation needs to move to how do we hold on to that."

And the market doesn't seem to be slowing down. Askins said the BID often gets requests for space that is not currently available on 125th Street, letting her know that demand is still high.

There could be opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to open chains as well as small businesses looking to benefit from more customers.

As for Blink fitness, Altimare sees the chain as offering the "best of the basics." The 125th Street gym will have 150 cardio and strength machines and group training and workouts. The site can appeal to both new or experienced exercisers.

"I believe competition is good," Askins said.