Olympus Gym got an official OK, last week, to move to a new location in the Albemarle Point Office Park in Chantilly. There, under the name, Olympus Athletic Club, it'll build a new, $7 million, 35,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.
Since it'll be the only tenant in its building, it needed a special permit from the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). Last Tuesday, March 4, the BZA heartily endorsed the plan, 6-0.
"The business has already been a good neighbor in its existing location [in Chantilly's Sully Place Shopping Center], and I think it's going to be an asset to the community," said Jim Hart, Sully District representative on the BZA. "It's an additional option for a recreational facility in western Fairfax."
Where it is now, Olympus has outgrown its space and has no room to expand. The new location is on the east side of Lee Road and the west side of Route 28, with access from both Routes 50 and 28. Three buildings are already constructed on this mixed-use property, and three others have site-plan approval.
Olympus is currently far from the highway, so the move will provide better visibility. The upscale athletic club will be open daily, 5 a.m.-11 p.m., with all new equipment. There'll be an aerobics area with cardiovascular machines and a cycling studio, plus strength-training equipment, personal trainers and massage therapy. Children will enjoy a play gym, computer lab (with cool video games) and learning center. And adults and children will have their own basketball courts.
Seven people spoke on Olympus' behalf at the BZA, after county staff recommended denial. Staff wanted frontage improvements made to a small outlet on Lee Road, but BZA didn't agree because it was too expensive in relation to Olympus' project.
Besides, wondered Hart, "Can we require a business to four-lane the road when it's not causing the need for it? Can we require them to make improvements on a site not their own? And, most importantly, the Comprehensive Plan shows Lee Road as two lanes between Willard Road and Route 50."
Hart also noted that many people want areas such as this, along Route 28, developed for this type of use, rather than retail. "They'd prefer office, recreation and a more attractive streetscape on Route 28," he said.
BZA approval was subject to development conditions crafted by Olympus' attorney, Mark Looney. They cover things such as operating hours, number of employees, building height, outdoor lighting and signage. "We tried to be forward-thinking and mirror the development conditions that we saw in other cases," he said.
On Monday, Olympus owner Scot Mullin praised Hart for his fairness and his help in bridging the gap between Olympus and the county. "He and the other BZA members made me feel really good about Fairfax County government," he said. "We're really pleased."
"It kinda felt like county staff was stonewalling us — and I was a little intimidated, at first, about going to the BZA," continued Mullin. "But they gave us a fair shake and an opportunity to speak. Someone does care, and that made all the difference."
Now it's full steam ahead for Olympus. "We're excited," said Mullin. "Construction is beginning, this week, and we're looking to open in August or September."
Looney was also delighted with the way things turned out. "It's going to be a great use for that business park," he said. "It will be good for Olympus because it will enable it to double its size and add more services and value for its members. And by locating there, Olympus will be able to attract more midday employees because [business] people can walk there from the nearby area or come from a short driving-distance."