One of Largest US Fitness Chains Quietly Begins Construction in North Brunswick

NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ–A freestanding, two-story, 38,000 square foot 24 Hour Fitness gym is being built by the chain on a prime parcel of land fronting on Livingston Avenue.

The ground-up-construction project is expected to be finished by June 2020, and will be the chain’s third club in Middlesex County.

A 24 Hour Fitness opened in Piscataway late last month. That club’s launch came about a year after the first in the county popped up in the Avenel section of Woodbridge.

The club’s main parking lot  – more than 100 spaces – according to a concept plan for the property, home of the former Coca-Cola plant, separates the back of the new Quick Chek on Route 1, from the striking structure being raised.

Township officials viewed the gym as quite fitting for the development, which also features the new Wendy’s fast food restaurant. The club was approved by the zoning board of adjustment 14 months ago.

According to property records, the lot at 1501-1511 Route 1, about an acre large, was purchased in mid-2016 by “M&M At North Brunswick, LLC” for $900,000. 24 Hour Fitness USA was listed as the grantee early in 2019.

The parcel was previously “zoned industrial,” as Doug Wilson, the Attorney representing M&M, told the Zoning Board of Adjustment October 16, 2018, when M&M’s application to modify a previously approved site plan was heard, then quickly approved without any objections.

Township officials view the club as “a commercial use that won’t hurt the downtown Livingston area,” Wilson said at the hearing, explaining that the “new variance” was needed for the fitness club.

Edgewood Properties, headquartered in Middlesex County, a real estate development and property management company with both commercial and residential projects, is the fitness company’s new landlord.

M&M Realty Partners, which is associated with Edgewood Properties, is owned by Jack Morris, a powerful builder who owns many developments in New Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway and even the Hard Rock Hotel in Atlantic City.

The October 2018 hearing resulted in a use variance and a height variance being unanimously granted.

A previously approved “Proposed Site & Geometry Plan” included a 15,400 square foot proposed retail area, between the gym and Quick Chek, but that area will be the gym’s main parking lot instead.

Edgewood is in the process of building a smaller retail pad directly on Route 1 in the “Marketplace at North Brunswick.”

Reached by phone, Joseph D. Morris, Senior Vice President of Edgewood Properties, said that retail space would be leased to several tenants or even one single retailer, for instance, explaining that three separate strips were in the works.

Testimony at the Zoning Board meeting last year came from both a traffic expert and an engineer hired by M&M.

24 Hour Fitness is expanding rapidly in New Jersey, but North Brunswick will be its southernmost location in the state.

Wilson said the lot was no longer “reasonably adaptable” for industrial use, since it was no longer “surrounded by commercial.” But the gym surely “won’t hurt the downtown Livingston area,” Wilson noted, pitching the need for the new variances.

Protecting the interests of existing businesses on Livingston Avenue was also brought up as leverage for getting the gym approved, instead of the flex warehousing originally planned.

24 Hour Fitness locations also receive limited deliveries, an M&M representative pointed out at the hearing, making the point that small box trucks, rather than large tractor trailers would deliver the goods needed to operate the club once it opened.

Smaller trucks, in addition to reducing truck traffic, would also spew less exhaust fumes in the area, benefiting the quality of life and the environment.

24 Hour Fitness has 27 locations in the NYC tri-state area, according to the California-based fitness chain, which operates more than 440 locations in 13 states.

Asked recently if 24 Hour Fitness USA would open additional locations in the Garden State, a Senior Manager of Public Relations for the company said in an email that the fitness chain “has signed 10 leases for future club openings and four are in New Jersey.”

“We are always analyzing new club locations and while we cannot disclose any specific information about our plans at this time, we continue to seek new locations in strong trade areas in Northern New Jersey,” added the spokesperson.

While the spokesperson confirmed that a newly-constructed facility in Springfield, reportedly similar in design to the one under construction in North Brunswick, would open in February 2020, she declined to elaborate on the other signed leases in New Jersey, including North Brunswick, saying she had “nothing to share” yet.

The 24 Hour Fitness in Springfield will replace the facility the company acquired from Bally’s and operated for “approximately four years and closed it because the club was older and functionally obsolete,” according to the spokesperson.

While the 24 Hour Fitness in Piscataway opened on November 23, another, 37,000 square foot club in Middletown on Route 35 will, when it opens, signify the premiere 24 Hour Fitness location in Monmouth County.

And for 24 Hour Fitness USA, a privately-held company, the North Brunswick club will signify its third club in Middlesex County and 13th in New Jersey.

More than half the chain’s clubs are in California. There are none in South Jersey or Pennsylvania.

The spokesperson said that all 24 Hour Fitness clubs being built are 30,000 to 40,000 square feet to accommodate the variety of amenities offered. In North Brunswick, the upstairs will reportedly be larger than the downstairs and contain most of the gym’s cardio equipment.

As for two “longstanding residences in proximity to the site,” M&M representatives told the Zoning Board they were proposing a 6-foot vinyl board-on-board fence as well as landscaping to serve as a buffer between the parking lot and the homes.

 

Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.