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London’s Fanciest Gym Brand Is Expanding As Health Becomes The New Wealth

U.S. luxury gym and lifestyle company Equinox is expanding in London after it set its sights on the U.K. capital with its first club five years ago.

Chief Development Officer Jeff Weinhaus talked to Bisnow about the company’s strategy, developments in the gym and health sector — and his favourite workout.

Equinox gyms are incorporating much larger hangout areas

Bisnow: What do Equinox’s expansion plans in London look like?

Weinhaus: We have signed leases to open new clubs in St James’s and Shoreditch at The Stage development, and we have just agreed to lease 30K SF from Brookfield at 15 St Helen’s Place in the City, part of the 100 Bishopsgate development. It is a beautiful building, part of the building which is the meeting place of the City of London Leather Guild, with high ceilings, a really amazing space.

Bisnow: What do you look for in the real estate you occupy? How are Equinox clubs changing?

Weinhaus: Location is obviously important, it needs to have the right demographic and psychographic makeup, and the co-tenants you are near are obviously important.

The key amenities in luxury gyms used to be locker rooms and spa facilities, and those are still really important. But now the lounge and hangout space is critical as well. It is part of this collision between work, life and play that is happening, the same thing that WeWork is part of. People now don’t distinguish between working, exercising, living and socialising, so they want to finish their workout and have somewhere they can just open up their laptop and work, or have lunch and meet a client.

With our clubs we have very set requirements for the size of the workout areas and locker rooms, so we are needing to take spaces that are 2-3K SF larger to accommodate this extra hangout space.

Equinox chief development officer Jeff Weinhaus

Bisnow: Why is the high-end gym and boutique fitness club market on such a tear at the moment?

It is part of a changing demographic and a move towards experiential retail and self-improvement being the new form of social capital — health being the new wealth. People do not just want to accumulate apparel in their closets any more. You have urban millennials with money and also older generations downsizing and becoming more healthy and active for longer. It is a perfect storm for our business.

Bisnow: What trends are you seeing in the gym market?

Weinhaus: In the full-service sector the middle-of-the-road club is being squeezed from both ends. People are either going to a low-priced club that is no frills, cheap but clean and with good equipment; or they are coming to higher-end premium operators like us, where you get a great experience.

Natural light is a key consideration for Equinox.

Bisnow: It seems like a new boutique concept launches every week. Is that sustainable?

Weinhaus: That market has been very vibrant for the past few years and performed strongly, but it has become overheated. There are not a lot of barriers to entry — anyone can open in a 3K SF space. It is now very competitive, and the guys that are mediocre will not do well. It is not as much about experience in that sector, it is about the programme. If you have a programme that genuinely works, can be personalised and allows people to get results, you will succeed. Some of these programmes that are not well thought out and can cause injury, like some of the CrossFit programmes, will suffer.

Bisnow: What is your own workout of choice?

Weinhaus: I do not have as much time as I’d like, so unfortunately at the moment I mainly do the old-guy thing of a session on the elliptical machine every morning. If I have got time we have got a great precision running programme at Equinox gyms, where the intervals are precisely timed to maximise performance but not be too impactful and cause injury.

And I am lucky enough to live on the Hudson River north of New York, so at the weekends I try and get out and kayak. I can do that from my backyard.

Hear Weinhaus and a host of other luminaries talk about how real estate is embracing experience at Bisnow's London State of the Market event on 15 November.