Currently Reading

7 tips for designing fitness studios in multifamily housing developments

Multifamily Housing

7 tips for designing fitness studios in multifamily housing developments

Cortland’s Karl Smith, aka “Dr Fitness,” offers advice on how to design and operate new and renovated gyms in apartment communities.

7 tips for designing fitness studios in multifamily housing developments - cortland gateway

Fitness on demand programming is the new craze in wellness programming, as shown here at Cortland Gateway Apartments, Pinellas Park, Fla., outside St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy Cortland

When the Covid pandemic hit, in 2020, rental and condo communities across the country had to slam the doors on their fitness centers. Now that things are opening up, we wanted to see what’s new in fitness centers since we last visited this topic (Fitness Centers Go for Wellness, Fall 2018).

Who better to bring us up to date than Karl Smith, DHEd, EIM, Fitwel Ambassador, Director of Resident Experience at multifamily developer/owner Cortland? Following are valuable tips from “Dr. Fitness,” as he is called.

1. The big buzz in fitness: “gamification.” Smith said Peloton, the home exercise equipment manufacturer, turned fitness into a game, especially for Gen Z and Millennial residents. “They’re into the gamification of fitness,” he said. “They want to have fun when they’re working out, and they want to talk to their friends about it.”

Just before the company went public, in September 2019, Peloton stopped supplying multifamily properties with new equipment. Its acquisition of Precor in April 2021 created a new division that supplies rental and condo communities with a commercial version of Peloton equipment. Competitors include Echelon (exercise bicycles) and Aviron (rowing machines), said Smith.

Cortland is also installing “mirror” equipment in its gyms. “There’s a screen where you see yourself working out,” said Smith. Popular brands: Mirror, Tempo Studio, and Tonal.

2. The best spot for your fitness center. “The number one best place is to be as close to the leasing office as possible,” said Smith. “The fitness center is a marketing tool. When you take prospects on a tour, you want all your high-end amenities—the gym, the fire pit, the pool—as close to the leasing office as possible so they can see everything in a short period of time and make that commitment to sign the lease.”

7 tips for designing fitness studios in multifamily housing developments - fitness boxing
Turf flooring allows for greater flexibility in programming fitness studios, according to Cortland’s Karl Smith. Photo courtesy Cortland

3. Safety first on equipment. Cortland uses “selectorized” fitness rigs—resistance machines that have limits on the amount of weight and range of motion the user can employ, so no spotter is needed. “That greatly reduces the odds of a resident getting injured from using our equipment,” said Smith. “Safety is built into everything we do in the gym.”

4. Dump the group classroom. “Chances are you’re going to have one class a day, so that’s 23 hours where it’s not occupied,” said Smith. “When we’re renovating a gym, the first thing we do is take that wall down and turf the floor.” That creates a more inviting space where tenants can work out on their own using accessories like medicine balls and dumbbells and fitness-on-demand programs like Wexer and Wellbeats.

5. Don’t try to meet everyone’s fitness needs. “We cater to a small percentage of our residents,” said Smith. “Seventy-five percent of our tenants say they want a fitness center, but only 10-25% will actually use it.” His research shows that one-fourth of Cortland tenants have a private gym membership; another quarter have no interest in fitness. “We market the service, but we do not expect everyone to use it,” said Smith.

6. Know your fitness target. “You have to identify who you’re building this fitness center for, and you have to have that person in mind every time you build one,” said Smith.

7. The sweet spot: novice exercisers. “They’re active, but they’re not going to be heavy lifters,” said Smith. “They’re going to ask questions about how to work out, which gives us an opportunity to teach about how to use the equipment properly.”

Smith said Cortland has at least one trained “wellness champion” staff member on site, as well as instructional signage showing how to use the equipment. Through a partnership with Valet Living, Cortland brings a trainer to the site two or three times a week for a couple of hours.

Dr. Fitness’s Magical Fitness Facility Space Allocation Formula

How big should your fitness center be? Smith has developed a reliable formula for determining minimum square footage for a typical Cortland rental project, based on the number of rental units:

Minimum square footage = # of units x 1.45 x 0.35 x 0.60 ÷ 5 x 50

For a 300-unit complex, that would be: 300 x 1.45 = 435 x 0.35 = 152.25 x 0.60 = 91.35 ÷ 5 = 18.27 x 50 = 913.5 s.f.

Try it against your own estimate or rule of thumb.

Related Stories

MFPRO+ News | Jul 22, 2024

Miami luxury condominium tower will have more than 50,000 sf of amenities

Continuum Club & Residences, a new 32-story luxury condominium tower in the coveted North Bay Village of Miami will feature more than 50,000 sf of indoor and outdoor amenities. The program includes a waterfront restaurant, dining terraces with resident privileges, and a private dining room outdoor pavilion.

MFPRO+ News | Jul 15, 2024

More permits for ADUs than single-family homes issued in San Diego

Popularity of granny flats growing in California

Vertical Transportation | Jul 12, 2024

Elevator regulations responsible for some of ballooning multifamily costs

Codes and regulations for elevators in the United States are a key factor in inflating costs of multifamily development, argues a guest columnist in the New York Times.

MFPRO+ New Projects | Jul 2, 2024

Miami residential condo tower provides a deeded office unit for every buyer

A new Miami residential condo office tower sweetens the deal for buyers by providing an individual, deeded and furnished office with each condo unit purchased. One Twenty Brickell Residences, a 34-story, 240-unit tower, also offers more than 60,000 sf of exclusive residential amenities.

Student Housing | Jul 1, 2024

Two-tower luxury senior living community features wellness and biophilic elements

A new, two-building, 27-story senior living community in Tysons, Va., emphasizes wellness and biophilic design elements. The Mather, a luxury community for adults aged 62 and older, is situated on a small site surrounded by high-rises.

MFPRO+ New Projects | Jun 27, 2024

Chicago’s long-vacant Spire site will be home to a two-tower residential development

In downtown Chicago, the site of the planned Chicago Spire, at the confluence of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, has sat vacant since construction ceased in the wake of the Great Recession. In the next few years, the site will be home to a new two-tower residential development, 400 Lake Shore.

MFPRO+ News | Jun 25, 2024

New York mayor releases multi-year plan to address affordable housing crisis

The plan seeks to create and preserve affordable housing. It will incentivize the inclusion of permanently affordable and rent stabilized housing in new, multi-family construction projects.

Student Housing | Jun 25, 2024

P3 student housing project with 176 units slated for Purdue University Fort Wayne

A public/private partnership will fund a four-story, 213,000 sf apartment complex on Purdue University Fort Wayne’s (PFW’s) North Campus in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The P3 entity was formed exclusively for this property.

Apartments | Jun 25, 2024

10 hardest places to find an apartment in 2024

The challenge of finding an available rental continues to increase for Americans nation-wide. On average, there are eight prospective tenants vying for the same vacant apartment.

MFPRO+ News | Jun 24, 2024

‘Yes in God’s Backyard’ movement could create more affordable housing

The so-called “Yes in God’s Backyard” (YIGBY) movement, where houses of worship convert their properties to housing, could help alleviate the serious housing crisis affecting many communities around the country.


More In Category


Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021