Planning Board Deliberates 24-Hour Fitness Club in Blake Block

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

Koko LogoDelores Martin of Koko Fit and Attorney Pam Brown of Brown & Brown PC met with the Planning Board on December 12 to request a permit amendment that would allow a fitness club on the ground floor of the Blake Block. According to Brown, the original permit specified—for a reason now forgotten—that a“private recreation” concern could be located on the second floor of the building, but not on the first.

“When we permitted the Blake Block initially,” Brown said, “we knew of a couple of businesses that we thought were coming back—for example, Ginger,the Japanese Restaurant. But aside from that, we were really permitting a mix of uses that we thought would be appropriate for the block. That said, now that we have a real user, some of the staff in the building department raised questions about hours of operation, potential impacts—especially with residential abutters and so forth—so we’ve tried to respond to those up front. We hope that you will determine that this is a minor change and allow the private recreation on the first floor.”

The space Koko Fitness would lease is located at 64-68 The Great Road at the corner of Fletcher Road. The dimensions of the club would be about 2,000 sq. ft. According to Brown, it would be adjacent to Bedford Rug, then next down the blockwould be the new Ken’s Deli. A frozen yogurt shop and then Ginger are planned for the eastern-most storefronts.

Brown went on to describe the Koko Fit business model:  “One thing to note, especially since we have residential owners above, is that Koko Fit is a unique health club. Their catchphrase is ‘Personal Training without the Personal Trainer.’ It’s all machines—either aerobic machines or resistance machines, but no free weights. . . .And they’re computerized—so if you’re into technology and you want to track your workout and your workouts over time and the number of calories you’ve burned or the amount of weight you’ve lifted or the number of rep[etition]s you’ve done, you bring your thumb drive and plug it into the machine and it will keep track of all that.”

Martin added, “It’s true. It actually tells you what to do.”

“Our request would be to be open 24 hours,” Brown said, “although, if after discussion, that’s an issue, we’d be willing to limit the hours.”  The facility, Brown added, would be staffed from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, but would otherwise be accessed using a key pad security system.

Questions and concerns from the Planning Board included the type and volume of music played in the club, whether the speakers would be mounted in the ceiling underneath the floors of upstairs tenants, how brightly lit the club would be at night, how noisy the exercise machines would be and whether using them would vibrate the building.

Martin called her husband and business partner for information about the machines. As he described them, there would be no chance of clanging noises since the weights for the resistance machines are housed in enclosed cabinets in the apparatus. Planning Director Glenn Garber and Planning Board member Lisa Mustapich said they would feel more comfortable seeing first-hand how the machines worked, so they made plans to stop by nearest location –Acton— in the coming week. Brown commented that, comparatively, when it comes to noise, a restaurant is likely to produce more than a health club would. There are already two restaurants planned for the first floor.

For the most part, there was a sense that the surrounding streets’ residents would probably not experience noise or light disturbance from the club, but the upstairs condo owners were potentially a different matter.

“We just have to reserve our right to protect the upstairs residents,” said Garber.

“This [club] could go in upstairs, without coming back to you at all,” Brown said. “It’s allowed in the block, it’s allowed on the second floor. We’re simply asking for it to be on the first floor….The people living there are choosing to live in the center of town where there are cars going by all day long.”

“It’s true,” said Planning Board chair Jon Silver. “At 5:30 [in the morning] the Great Road is humming. . . .There’s always stuff going on.”

The question of whether Koko Fit’s request constituted a minor or major change was settled in favor of the minor classification, although members Lisa Mustapich and Sandra Hackmen dissented from the majority.

Stipulations that would prohibit free weights and fitness classes as well as a limit to the hours of operation—perhaps to5AM to 11PM—were discussed. A final ruling will be made after visiting the Acton location to assess noise levels.

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