New fitness club hopes to revitalize area

NEWPORT BEACH — After being plagued for years by dwindling foot traffic, tenants of the Via Lido Plaza shopping complex hope that the opening of a new fitness club will help put them on the treadmill to economic health.

Construction crews were working Monday, surrounded by new exercise equipment, as they installed flooring and light fixtures in the soon-to-open Curl Fitness on Via Oporto.

The 13,000-square-foot club is scheduled to open June 25, with a grand-opening party July 21.

"We were familiar with what we didn't like at corporate clubs, and we wanted to do something more fun, more social," said club co-owner Becky Hartman. "We wanted to create a culture and a place where people are working out rather than hanging out."

With two spacious floors and wall-to-wall windows overlooking Newport Boulevard, the club will emphasize the upscale and relaxed atmosphere of coastal communities, Hartman said.

The club features a café and smoothie bar with natural and organic items, group classes, certified personal trainers, educational seminars and other services.

The brick building was the ideal structure for the club, even though Hartman and her business partner, Jill Sperry, were aware of the area's sluggish economic activity. Still, they were optimistic.

"I think that [Curl Fitness] is going to bring a tremendous number of people to the area," Sperry said. "I think that as other businesses see that, it's going to open a lot of doors."

The June 1 closure of the plaza's Pavilions, which relocated to 32nd Street, had worried some tenants that foot traffic to the surrounding area would dwindle even more.

"It's a positive thing," said Paul Talbot, whose office at Oxbow Steel International is on Via Oporto. "The people coming there are going to be the right kind of people you want to be drawn to the area. It's the right demographic."

Talbot is among the first members of the club, which had about 50 people signed up as of Monday.

He was attracted to the club because of the location and the club's layout.

"You're not one of a thousand people going in and out of there every day," Talbot said. "It's a little more personal."

Talbot said new life has been pushed into the center, which before was nearly forgotten, in recent months.

The area is home to a weekly farmers market. There is also an annual boat show.

"It's such a beautiful area," Sperry said. "It's been dormant far too long."

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