CHANNEL DISTRICT — Retail spaces on the ground floors of condominium towers here have struggled to find tenants in this gloomy economy.
But a bright spot has emerged.
The Powerhouse Gym opened last week beneath the Grand Central condos, in a 25,000-square-foot Channel District storefront.
"Everybody's excited," said Gary Houghtalin, a Grand Central resident who worked up a sweat Monday morning on the treadmill. "We've been waiting for two years for something to happen down here. This is the first glimmer of hope."
Powerhouse isn't just your average gym.
The trio of brothers who own it — Matthew Midyett, John Sanguinetti and Eddy Midyett — brought some West Coast glam to the site.
One wall boasts autographed portraits of clients who frequented the brothers' gym in Los Angeles: Sean Penn, Barbara Eden, Will Ferrell. Surfaces throughout the facility showcase the airbrush artistry of Ryno, featured on the television program Trick My Truck.
The gym also has specialized training equipment that draws independent trainers from throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Personal trainers setting up shop at the location include Mark Gochenour, who uses a sand pit, artificial turf and treadmills that reach 25 miles per hour to help athletes build speed. He transferred his business from a small gym in Brandon.
The owners of Driven Health and Fitness have set up shop here, too, making use of the condo tower's rooftop pool and parking garage for interval training.
"The best trainers on the planet are independent trainers," said owner Matthew Midyett. "They are allowed to bring their clients here and we encourage them to build their brand."
Former Tennessee Titan Ryan Watson, who works with bodybuilders and mixed martial arts fighters, has moved his clientele from Clearwater.
"This place has endless possibilities," he said. "I feel blessed to be at a facility like this."
Among the unique amenities: Pure oxygen pumped into the virtual reality cycling room and TRX suspension training equipment, which uses ceiling straps and body weight to boost heart rate. TRX was featured on the most recent season of Biggest Loser. Also at Powerhouse, a two-sided staircase, dubbed the "Santa Monica stairs" after a popular California work-out spot, towers over the weight-training area.
Tampa firefighter Mike Veach was one of the first 1,000 people to join the gym, where memberships run from $34 to $69 a month.
"They've hit all the benchmarks as far as a gym goes," he said, making note of the showers equipped with towels and soap and the cafe with smoothies and sandwiches.
Mark Huey, Tampa's administrator for economic development, called the gym's opening "good news."
"Given the times, if you drive around other parts of our community you see retail complexes boarded up and vacant," he said. "Here what you see, it's not fast, but there are tenants coming into downtown."
Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3401.