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Gym Is Hit Close to Home : Apartment Dwellers Are Taking Advantage of Convenient, On-Site Exercise Facilities


Instead of simply sporting a pool and maybe a tennis court or two, today's competitive modern apartment complexes market themselves by providing fitness amenities that can rival most private gyms or resorts.

About 160 Orange County apartment complexes, or 30% of all projects, now have fitness centers, or gyms, according to Matt Disston, principal of Research Network in Laguna Hills, a marketing and real estate economic consulting firm that inventories and tracks Orange County real estate.

And most of those complexes with fitness centers are new, with more than 300 units, he said.

"But there are gyms and there are gyms," said Disston. "Some will have one Lifecycle and a mirror in a couple hundred square feet and others have full-time instructors in a full-blown, 1,000-square-foot fitness center. The latter case is rare."

Disston said incorporating fitness into apartment complexes is an "evolutionary amenity" that really started in the mid-'80s.

"It's really a function of lifestyle evolution, part of the whole package of intensive management where you have a staff that's really schooled in how to promote the social side of multifamily living," he said. "An astute property manager with extra storage room will drag in some mats and call it a gym."

It's also a trend that followed the changing profile of apartment dwellers, he said, with more and more older adults streaming into apartment living as a result of household changes, such as divorce.

"Apartment living is not teen-agers moving out of the house anymore," said Disston. "It's a response to a fundamental change we've seen in apartment living. Frankly, there's a real increase in middle-aged apartment dwellers."

Take Toscana, one of the county's newest complexes. The Italian-style community in Irvine is being built entirely around the concept of fitness for tenants that are mostly from 35 to 45 years old.

"This whole project revolves around exercise and sports," said director of leasing Mikel Persky. "Before this developer does a project, they do all the demos about the area. Multiple surveys showed that the people here are very health conscious."

At the November opening of the 20-acre, 755-unit project's first phase, professional champion athletes were brought in to promote the leasing of apartments that range from about 600 to 1,400 square feet and rent from about $800 to $1,660, Persky said.

Included in those rents are access to full-time fitness and activities directors, an on-site tennis pro, five outdoor workout stations and a two-story, 6,200-square-foot clubhouse including a weight and aerobics room, a junior Olympic pool, plus sauna and locker rooms.

Toscana also has a bike club, a running club, scuba classes, hosts a monthly health and fitness fair and organizes outings to sports bars and baseball games.

"People completely love the lifestyle here," said Persky. "They go to everything."

Susan Dyer is director of residential asset management at Irvine Pacific, a division of the Irvine Co. She said the Irvine Co. has more than 11,000 apartments in Orange County and was one of the first developers here to incorporate fitness amenities.

"We started in the early '70s with two projects--Park West in Irvine and Promontory Point in Newport Beach," she said. "From that point forward, we didn't really do them on a regular basis until the late '80s, when the market really asked for it."

Now, depending on the community size and anticipated resident profile, Irvine Pacific incorporates fitness centers, upgraded older ones and installed them where they weren't before.

"We've had such a positive response that we've even this year converted a laundry room into a fitness center at one community and taken out a billiards room and put in a weight room at another," said Dyer. "Residents really want this."

Dyer said that typically, Irvine Co. apartment communities have gyms about the size of a two-car garage with weight stations, mirrors, televisions, Stairmasters and Lifecycles, in addition to pools and tennis courts.

For example, at the 520-unit, 32-acre Promontory Point built in 1974, the Irvine Co. then incorporated a clubhouse with a downstairs weight room, locker rooms, Jacuzzi and sauna. The 11,000-square-foot facility has since been upgraded several times, said resident manager Mary Lynn Mc Cord.

"It's one of our big marketing tools," she said. "We keep redoing and adding as needed."

There is an activities director and a tennis pro. Exercise classes are taught on the site by Coastline Community College and residents also conduct their own classes, Mc Cord said.

Rents for apartments ranging in size from 760 to 2,750 square feet are $1,185 to $2,750.

Park Newport in Newport Beach is another one of Orange County's pioneers in including fitness amenities into apartment complexes. It is also one of the county's Cadillacs in fitness facilities.

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