September 22, 2005

Pioneer Press, 9/22: Edens Athletic Club will close Sept. 30

Edens Athletic Club will close Sept. 30
by Amy Le
September 22, 2005

For part-time employee Betty Ginden, the Edens Athletic Club has been more than just a place to collect a paycheck.

Ginden, 42, who is also a member of the club at 5130 N. Cicero Ave., has used the fitness facility for Russian-style kettlebell training. Two years ago, she helped start a Kettlebell Club at Edens, introducing the unique sport and exercise to curious onlookers and fellow members.

But at the end of this month the group will have to look for new training grounds.

In a letter sent to Edens' members earlier this month, the club's management group, Tennis Corporation of America, announced that the facility will officially close Sept. 30.

"I'm really going to miss coming here," Ginden said. "This isn't your typical fitness club ... I know most members by their first name and I know their families."

Edens, a popular full-service health club, has been open for more than 30 years at its current location.

Serious competition

But while area residents and members are disappointed by TCA's decision to close shop, company President Steven Schwartz said slumping membership and an explosive growth in the number of new health clubs in the area led to the final decision to close the facility this year.

"Edens is not well positioned to be competitive with Bally's Xsport, Galter, Curves, Lifetimes and other planned new clubs," Schwartz said. "We haven't made a profit over the past 10 years with the Edens."

While news of the closing was announced to employees in July, Ginden said members had hoped a recent proposal to buy the club -- spearheaded by former Edens racketball operation director Joe Gill -- would keep the building open.

Schwartz said the club was originally scheduled to close on July 31, but he extended the date to allow Gill and his investment group time "to put together a back-up offer," in the case TCA's deal to lease their property to Wendy's International Inc. fell through.

Schwartz told Pioneer Press in July that while his company was willing to look over Gill's offer, in April they had already entered into a 15-year lease agreement with Wendy's for the property.

"It's a shame that TCA doesn't see our group of investors as a viable bid," Gill said. "Had we had more time, we would have had a better chance at purchasing the club."

Permit needed

Gill said his group of investors were given a deadline of Aug. 31 to meet all of TCA's requirements and to match its asking price. Neither Gill nor Schwartz would disclose the proposed selling price for the club due to their confidentiality agreement.

The lease with the fast food giant, however, is still contingent upon Wendy's obtaining a special-use permit for a drive-through facility. Schwartz said the request for the special use was originally scheduled for the Zoning Board of Appeals agenda for July 15.

But opposition to the Wendy's from neighbors on the 5100 block of North La Crosse Avenue moved Alderman Patrick Levar, 45th Ward, to request a 60-day continuance with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

That board is expected to consider the owner's request at its meeting on Oct. 21.

In July, Levar said he would schedule a meeting with the neighbors, TCA and Wendy's to address their concerns over increased traffic and noise that a fast food drive-through would bring to the area. But according to resident Wesley Zameda, no such meeting has yet taken place.

"We keep calling the alderman's office, but he hasn't gotten back to us," he said.

Rather than wait, Zameda said he and fellow neighbors have begun circulating a petition objecting to the construction and operation of a Wendy's restaurant on the 5100 block of North Cicero Avenue and plan to present it to Levar and officials at the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Despite the mysterious disappearance of two signs once posted behind Zameda's fence that read: "Say No to Wendy's," and "Save Edens Club," the retired city worker said he's not ready to back down.

"I know some people think it's a done deal," Zameda said. "It's not over yet."

"We're going to keep fighting, even if that means I have to stand in front of the wrecking ball."

Source: Pioneer Press

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