Like any major project in a co-op or condominium, installing a gym is made up of two separate yet equally important parts: The brass tacks of planning and executing the project, and the politics of running it through the board and residents.
And as with most projects—especially costly 'lifestyle' amenities—the politics is the hard part.
“With all the negotiating back and forth and rounds of approvals, putting in the gym took about five years,” recalls Patricia Durbin-Ruiz, former manager of the fitness center at The Belaire, a 50-story condominium tower at 524 East 72nd Street in Manhattan. The resistance among some of the owners at The Belaire was particularly intense because it was to be massive—and expensive, including the upgrade of an existing indoor pool in addition to the installation of the gym.
But the Belaire's board persevered through the resistance because they were certain the fitness center would be more than a luxury lifestyle amenity for their building—it would be essential to keep the building competitive in the marketplace. They were reminded of that every day by the activity across the street: a rental tower was being converted to a condominium called Miraval Living that boasted a luxurious fitness center and pool. “The Belaire had a beautiful building,” says Durbin-Ruiz, “but no gym.”
According to Jeffrey Heidings, president of Siren Management Corp., “More than five years ago, a gym was a plus. Now, If you don’t have a gym you are not competing. It is expected.” In August, The New York Times asked Prudential Douglas Elliman President and CEO Dottie Herman what buyers are looking for. After “well-priced,” she said, “they want buildings with gyms.”