Midtown Gym Displaced by Beltline, Other Businesses Endangered
(APN) ATLANTA — A Midtown gym is being forced to relocate after a gravel pathway the business had been renting from the Beltline–and from the railroad company before that–for its parking lot, is now being used for part of the Beltline’s East Corridor.
Progress has already begun on the new corridor, which will be a path for walking, cycling, roller blading, etc.
Urban Body Fitness is located on Ponce Place off of Ponce de Leon Avenue. They are moving to Amsterdam Walk, on Amsterdam Avenue off of Monroe Drive.
Although UBF’s owner, Radford “Rad” Slough, has determined the move is only nine blocks, he says he has already lost 38 members this month who have specifically said they were canceling because of the move. With memberships currently costing 55 dollars per month, Atlanta Progressive News estimate’s the business’s revenue loss at just over 25,000 dollars per year. Add to that moving expenses.
Previously, APN’s coverage of displacement as a result of the Beltline has focused more on gentrification by way of property tax and rental increases. APN has followed the lack of progress on meaningful affordable housing resulting from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund; and lack of progress on a series of gentrification mitigation proposals by the Beltline Affordable Housing Advisory Board.
However, some businesses are literally being displaced because of the Beltline.
According to Slough, a thrift store called Paris on Ponce, which also has an event space called Moulin Rouge, is also endangered. The parking for the event space also has been rented from the Beltline, and from the railroad company before that.
“It’s seriously negatively impacting them because that’s a part of their income,” Slough said.
In addition, when work begins on the segment of the Beltline near the corner of 10th Street and Monroe Drive, Slough is concerned that Park Tavern, a restaurant and event space in the southeast corner of Piedmont Park, may also be endangered. Park Tavern’s entire parking lot is rented from the Beltline.
“People don’t understand the good points and the bad points about the Beltline. Park Tavern, that’s a business that may end. That’s their parking,” Slough said.
“They’re squatting on our land!” one Beltline supporter said at a recent Art of the Beltline function stumbled upon by this reporter.
Urban Body was previously called P.E., which had opened in 1999. Slough and David Mauer bought it in June 2002 and renamed it Urban Body.
Urban Body has a fitness studio or gym, as well as a yoga studio called Urban Body Studios. Incidentally, recently elected Superior Court Judge candidate, Kelly Lee, is an instructor at Studios. Studios will not be moving, because even with the Beltline, there will still be some spaces to accommodate the yoga clients.
Slough became the sole owner when he bought out Mauer in August of this year.
Urban Body Fitness, Inc., was incorporated in June 2002, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s corporations database. Slough is now the CEO, CFO, and Secretary. Urban Body Studios, Inc., was incorporated as a separate LLC in 2004, with Slough signing off on the annual report.
“For basically, the entire time we’ve been here, we’ve leased the Beltline property. First it was the railroad, then it was the pre-incarnation of the Beltline, then the Beltline,” Slough told APN.
The rent was 1,000 dollars per month, Slough said.
“The gym requires 120 to 140 parking spaces. Physically on the property there are 22,” Slough said. “Without the Beltline property we don’t have a viable business.”
“They’re taking the property back as of January 01,” 2011, Slough said.
Urban Body Fitness also considered a space on the other side of the Kroger on Ponce, which would have been on North Avenue.
The space where they are going, Amsterdam Walk, is also on the Beltline, adjacent to part of the Beltline that will go along the edge of Piedmont Park.
Slough said he is excited about the new space and that other businesses in the shopping center are hoping the gym will be an anchor store.
The gym will be in a space previously occupied by a gym that was called Fitness Factory, in addition to a space that had been occupied by a furniture store.
Slough said no one from the Beltline offered to compensate the business for having to move and that he did not ask. Slough said he is a supporter of the Beltline, and said he benefited from over a year of free rent while the Beltline Tax Allocation District was tied up due to a court ruling.
“It’s lemon now. I’m making lemonade,” Slough said.
Beltline, Inc., does not have any plans to compensate impacted business owners, Ethan Davidson, Communication’s Director for the Beltline, told APN.
“We worked very proactively with the owner of Urban Body Fitness. We’re very happy they found a new location that works for them. We’re happy they’re staying close to the Atlanta Beltline,” Davidson said.
“What happened was, a lot of businesses were using the Beltline corridor for parking. Obviously now that the trail is being built, it can no longer be used for parking,” Davidson said.
“In some cases, the parking was for little to nothing. So, now that it’s becoming a new public space, arrangements that had existied in the past cannot continue as they were… as that is now basically a public right of way,” Davidson said.
“In the case of Urban Body Fitness, everyone wants a sweet deal on parking, but if you’re getting a sweet deal on parking on the public’s dime, is that really fair?” Davidson asked.
Davidson said that with the southwest part of the Beltline corridor, which has already been cleared, there was not the same impact on businesses because there were few businesses situated on or near the pathway.
Davidson said he was not aware of the situation facing Paris on Ponce, and the loss of Park Tavern’s parking will occur at an unknown date in the future. Davidson there was discussion of possible solutions involving Park Tavern but it was premature to discuss them.