Athleta to Join Fitness Center on Southport

By Patty Wetli | Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The soon-to-be home of Southport Fitness Center and Athleta. Credit: Patty Wetli

For months, Lakeview residents have watched the building at 3415 N. Southport Ave. rise up next to the Brown Line El station. First, Southport Fitness Center announced its intention to occupy a portion of the new structure, and now developer Sean Derrig of Derrig Management tells RVJ that the rest of the space is 100 percent leased, with Athleta and a noodle shop rounding out the tenants.

Snagging Athleta, which specializes in women’s fitness apparel, is quite the coup for Lakeview. Part of the Gap family of brands, Athleta, founded in 1998, has fewer than 10 brick-and-mortar locations, the majority of which are concentrated in California and on the East Coast. The Southport shop will be its second foothold in the Midwest; the other is in Minneapolis.

“It’s a really, really big deal,” says Derrig, who noted that Athleta took the initiative in securing the space. The draw: location, location, location. Foot traffic and proximity to the El were major lures for the retailer and, Derrig adds, “It seemed to be one of the better ZIP codes for their catalog business.”

Derrig, who was also behind the Uncle Dan’s at 3551 N. Southport Ave., expressed few qualms about tackling such a large development in the current economy. “I’ve been doing this since 1982,” he says. “This is my third recession. We’re prepared.”

The fitness center is the closest to opening, according to Derrig, aiming for a February debut, with the other two tenants likely to lay out their welcome mats within the next 90 days.

Filling a Neighborhood Void

Mason Goldberg and David Goldman, co-owners of Wicker Park Fitness and partners in the Southport Fitness venture, initially inked a deal on the Southport space more than two years ago. “We saw a potential void in the neighborhood gym, next to the El with people starting and ending their day. We couldn’t ask for a better location,” says Goldberg, who also operates Ludlow Fitness in New York City.

The two hung on while the original developer faced foreclosure and re-upped for a 20-year lease when Derrig came on board. “We’re not just dipping our toes in,” Goldberg says.  “We’re still neighborhood guys. It’s important to us to be in a neighborhood where we can be a kind of community center.” The expectation that most members will live within walking distance should mitigate any parking concerns, adds Derrig.

Southport Fitness Center will occupy the entire second floor of the structure. “We built the building very strong to carry all that weight,” says Derrig. “We went over and above on soundproofing between floors.” At 10,000 square feet, the gym will be significantly larger than the 6,000-square-foot Wicker Park Fitness but retain the same sense of intimacy, which includes a Goldberg trademark: free apples at the front desk.

With Goldberg headquartered in New York, Goldman (the two have been best friends since seventh grade) will move over from Wicker Park to Southport. “We’re really a family business,” Goldberg says. “With a new location, we always put an owner on site. Some businesses, to find the owner, you’re always told to talk to the manager. You’ll see us look a person in the eye; we know their name.”


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