Luxury athletic facility in Middletown could be ‘economic companion’

MIDDLETOWN – Aaron Koehler, the director of real estate development at Life Time Fitness, has said the business, which is described as a luxury athletic health club, would be a “significant economic companion” in Middletown.

Testimony on behalf of the applicant, Life Time Fitness, was presented at the Middletown Planning Board’s Sept. 18 meeting at the municipal building.

Life Time Fitness is seeking major site plan approval at 230 Half Mile Road and 250 Half Mile Road in accordance with the Half Mile Road Redevelopment Plan that was approved by the Township Committee in 2018.

The applicant is proposing to construct a three-story, 120,423-square-foot athletic facility with a multi-level parking garage which will accommodate more than 500 parking spaces, an outdoor pool area with water slides, and related site improvements. The property currently contains a vacant three-story office building.

Answering questions posed by attorney Kate Coffey, who represents the applicant, Koehler described the nature of the business.

“(Life Time Fitness) seeks to attract young professionals and their families,” Koehler said, comparing the athletic club to a high-end resort. “… You would be able to find spaces in this facility that you are not used to seeing in a typical health and fitness center.

“We encourage people to stay and be there. We really try to be a third place for people to be. You’ve got work and home. We don’t want to be that place where you just come to work out,” he said.

Koehler said the facility, if granted approval, would open at 4 a.m. and close at midnight. A cafe, salon and spa, child care center, outdoor bistro and on-site nutritionists would be available to members. He said a single membership could cost $159 per month.

“Any (equipment) you could dream of from a fitness perspective” will be available, he testified.

Koehler said the business “will be a significant economic companion” and estimated it would be a $40 million investment to construct the athletic center in Middletown. He said he expects the business would sell between 5,000 and 6,000 memberships.

Following Koehler’s testimony, Township Committeewoman Patricia Snell, who sits on the board, said, “this (proposal) is almost going down the line of an Atlantic Club … I’m assuming the model you are proposing is similar to an Atlantic Club. (You are) proposing more than just going to a gym and working out on machines … I understand that during the summer this could be like an outdoor experience for families.”

Koehler agreed with Snell’s description of the proposed business and said Life Time Fitness would be more than a “sweaty room with equipment” and added that the applicant’s intention is to “create a place people want to be.”

Board member Kevin Colangelo called the proposed athletic center “the Walmart of fitness” and said the applicant’s proposal contains “several disruptive businesses” such as a spa and a salon that could cause competition with existing businesses in Middletown.

“When Walmart comes into a town, who trembles? Optometrists,” Colangelo said, noting that the department store offers those services.

Koehler said Life Time Fitness is “certainly looking to hire” local professionals.

Attorney Ron Gasiorowski, who represents the periodontist office Dicesare & Dicesare, 240 Half Mile Road, is representing objectors to the application. For more than an hour, Gasiorowski cross-examined the applicant’s professional witnesses.

“What is being proposed is not out of the ordinary,” said Sanyogita Chavan, Middletown’s director of planning. She said the application submitted by Life Time Fitness conforms with the township’s redevelopment plan.

Testimony regarding the Life Time Fitness application is expected to continue at the board’s Nov. 6 meeting.