A Moveable Fitness Program
By: Ellen Rand and Ron Derven, contributing editors, Development.
Exercise programs that offer fitness classes in vacant office space and fun events like tug-of-war competitions can be a low-cost, value-added amenity — as well as an effective tenant-retention tool.
If you can’t devote a fixed space for a fitness center, you could opt to create moveable facilities, as several clients of the south Florida management firm Continental Real Estate Companies (CREC) have done. Carol Brooks, president and co-founder of CREC, started its “A Deeper Breath” fitness program several years ago, in what she called a natural extension of the wellness-oriented programs the firm already was providing for its clients. The idea emerged out of the recession, when many buildings had an abundance of vacant space. A Deeper Breath offers everything from meditation sessions and yoga classes to boot camp workouts, stair-climbing competitions, and smoothie breaks. All are free to tenants and facilitated by CREC. The program typically starts in “the worst space” in the building, Brooks said, and invariably moves to another spot once the original space is leased to a tenant.
The program enables a property owner to activate space, impact tenant satisfaction, and differentiate a building from others in the market; in other words, enhance the asset’s value, she said. The program is now up and running at three south Florida office buildings. It is one of the most cost-effective amenities for a property owner, who pays only the instructors’ fees. (CREC is picking up the marketing costs internally.) Although the impact of the program on tenant retention is hard to quantify, Brooks said, it does get consistently high marks on the periodic questionnaires sent to tenants to gauge their satisfaction. Tenants also receive questionnaires to determine what kinds of activities and classes interest them. Brooks noted that she brought to the program her great love of yoga, but that “people love Zumba, too.”
Looking ahead, CREC is working to deliver the program to a broader base of clients over the next 12 to 18 months. Its aim is to offer A Deeper Breath at additional properties within its portfolio of 11.4 million square feet in Florida.