On many apartment tours, prospects hastily glance into the fitness center to assess the offerings. But at KSI's Metropolitan Fairfax in Virginia, prospects stop short at the site of the gym's coolest gear: a rock-climbing wall. "Imagine walking into the standard fitness room, and there's this large imposing wall with the handholds and footholds on a rotating piece that is 7 or 8 feet high," says Bob Murray, president of Centreville, Va.-based KSI Management Corp. "It adds an area of excitement to the old drum fitness room."
Capitalizing on today's health-conscious crowd, developers are allocating larger funds and more space to create high-end fitness centers. "They are making attempts to compete with the health club chains so that their residents can derive a complete workout on-site," says David Uptown, president of David Uptown Co., a Fort Worth, Texas-based fitness consultant firm. In the past, fitness centers have served more as a showpiece for the apartment building rather than complete, functional facilities, he adds.
Climbing walls are an easy way to give that "wow" factor while providing a full-body workout, says Conant Brewer, president of Brewer's Ledge, a Boston-based manufacturer of rock-climbing equipment, which KSI Management uses. The most popular option for apartment communities: the Treadwall, a nonmotorized rotating wall that requires a 7-foot-by-10-foot space and costs from $9,000 to $12,000. For smaller fitness centers with limited floor space, the company offers LedgeWall panels that attach to the wall and cost less, at $2,000 to $5,000.
Simply offering trendy fitness equipment isn't always enough, however. More residents are expecting exercise classes comparable to the ones held at health clubs. To meet that demand, Shea Properties, a Southern California apartment firm, builds classrooms at all of its new properties. Complimentary class offerings range from Pilates and yoga to kickboxing and group circuit training. "We tailor the classes to meet our residents' needs," says Steve Gilmore, a vice president at Shea.
For buildings that don't have the room or can't afford instructors, Uptown suggests equipping a small room with a TV and DVD or video player and a collection of exercise videos for residents' use.