Community-oriented Denman Fitness to say farewell to West End due to redevelopment

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      Another longstanding West End community-oriented business is calling it quits.

      Denman Fitness, located at 1731 Comox Street (just off Denman Street), has served West Enders since 1994, although the location's existence as a gym goes back even further.

      The 18,000-square-foot gym is located beside the Coast Plaza Hotel and Suites building, which is going to be converted into a rental tower with 316 units.

      DA Architects and Planners submitted a development permit to rezone the two levels above Denman Place Mall, which affects Denman Fitness as well as Brasserie Restaurant (which opened in 1979) and Comox Street Long Bar and Grill (which is over 20 years old). In December 2016, the rezoning application was approved by city council.

      Comox Street Long Bar and Grill and the Brasserie Restaurant will also close during the redevelopment.
      Craig Takeuchi

      Denman Fitness manager Marc Siemens, who has worked there for over 30 years, said that many of his members, which has averages about 2,000 people, are upset about the impending closure.

      "It's been part of the community," he said on the line about his club. "That's how people feel about it and that's why they're upset."

      He explained that because they had originally wanted to keep the gym going for their members and the community.

      "We're not leaving by our choice," he said by phone. "We did want to renew but they've got different plans for the building, and in fairness that's just how it goes."

      He added that they had considered every possibility, including searching for another location and opening a smaller facility. Unfortunately, they weren't able to find anything feasible.

      "It's sad but we feel good on how we're going out because we did want to continue for the members and the community and all that but it was taken out of our hands," he said. "We didn't have any real say in the matter when it came down to it….We're ready to move on."

      Denman Fitness

      Although the club started in 1994, Siemens said it originally began as racquet club about 40 years ago and evolved into a health club, becoming gyms such as Olympic and Club Cardio before it became Denman Fitness.

      The fitness centre offers weight machines and free-weights, personal training, and spinning classes. It also has a squash court; a yoga studio featuring yoga, pilates, group exercise, zumba, stretching, and other classes; and access to the hotel pool, Jacuzzi, and sauna.

      Denman Fitness

      Siemens pointed out how the fitness scene has radically changed since they began.

      "This business has evolved over the years and it's a very, very difficult industry to get into because of the big corporate clubs," he said. "We're just a bit of a dying breed."

      Siemens calls what they offer is "old school" fitness.

      "We're not trying to be flashy and glitzy—and that's what members like," he said.

      Denman Fitness

      That back-to-basics approach, coupled with a small staff who got to know patrons, also attracted an endless parade of celebrities ranging from Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who recently worked out there as he is currently in town shooting Skyscraper in Vancouver.

      Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has exercised at the facility.

      "If I had a memory, I could write an amazing book about this," Siemens said.

      In the meantime, Siemens said it will be business as usual and that they'll be saying their farewells up until the club's final day on November 14.

      Denman Fitness

      The forthcoming closure comes at time when many other longtime businesses and neighbourhood haunts have been shutting down, including Dover Arms Pub, West Valley Market, and Lolita's South of the Border Cantina. Cloud 9 Revolving Restaurant will close down at Robson Street's Empire Landmark Hotel on September 30.

      Only a short distance away from Denman Fitness, the entire block at 1600 Davie Street, including Safeway and the B.C. Liquor Store, are being shut down due to a new development being built. 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook