Planet Fitness, for months, has been rumored to open at the Inverness Regional Shopping Center on U.S. 41.
Now, it’s official.
The New Hampshire-based fitness chain has signed a 10-year lease to occupy 20,000 square feet of the old Kmart and is tentatively set to open in June of next year. A hiring call for about 10 employees will go out as the date gets closer.
The building has been vacant since Kmart closed the location in 2016.
Jill Strumpf, president of Bruce Strumpf Inc., the plaza’s property management group, said the renovation of the building will require extensive work. Planet Fitness will have to reconfigure the interior space, build a dividing wall and make other improvements. She expects the renovation to begin in February and it should take at lease 12 weeks.
After it opens, there will be about 63,000 square feet of space left unoccupied.
“I love it,” Strumpf said of the new tenant. “It’s a great plus for the shopping center. It’s going to bring a lot of traffic. It’s definitely a start."
The Inverness Regional Shopping Center, once a thriving plaza, had fallen on hard times with the pullout of Kmart and, in 2013, of Publix.
Inverness City Manager Frank DiGiovanni believes Planet Fitness is a good fit for that plaza, especially given its proximity to Whispering Pines State Park where many go to run and exercise.
“It’s a sign of life (there),” he said. "It’s a sign of progress. These vacant buildings aren’t helping anyone.”
DiGiovanni said Planet Fitness should not only help existing businesses there, but perhaps spur more interest for other tenants. It will also help spruce up the entrance to the city off U.S. 41, he said.
DiGivanni questions whether Planet Fitness can compete with two other chain fitness centers in the city. Obviously, the new occupant is relying on its demographic studies, he said.
New Hampshire-based Planet Fitness has more than 14 million members in 1,800 locations throughout the world. More than 95 percent of the centers are independently owned and operated.
Planet Fitness will join eight other tenants, including Bealls Outlet, General Nutrition Center, Fresenius Kidney Care, Perseverance Tattoo, Do or Dye Collective, Kana Nails, First Taste and Launderland.