Planet Fitness opens in Uptown, CWRU students react


Clay Preusch/The Observer

The decision to open a Planet Fitness facility where the campus bookstore and Dunkin’ Donuts once stood has generally been received poorly by students.

Shreyas Banerjee, Executive Editor

National fitness center chain Planet Fitness celebrated the grand opening of their new branch based in Cleveland’s Uptown neighborhood this Tuesday, Feb. 7. 

The University Bookstore of Case Western Reserve University and a Dunkin’ Donuts location previously occupied this location on Euclid Avenue. However in spring 2022, both vendors did not renew their leases and relocated to buildings that CWRU directly owned; the bookstore and Dunkin’ moved to the former ABC the Tavern location across the street and the Tinkham Veale University Center, respectively. As such, a large retail vacancy opened up in the heart of Uptown, leading to much speculation from CWRU students as to what would arrive. Beginning in fall 2022, renovations began and signs started popping up promoting the impending arrival of the new Planet Fitness. The new fitness center officially opened in January 2023 right in the center of CWRU’s campus, adjoining the North Residential Village. It is the newest addition to Uptown, which has seen various new restaurants and shops open up since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Plum Market Kitchen, Build the Pho, the Sweet Spot and an AT&T store.

However, just as many venues in Uptown have closed in recent years including Constantino’s Market, Chapati Indian Grill, Inchin’s Bamboo Garden, Cleveland Clothing Co. and Simply Greek. Vacancies still exist on Euclid Avenue, including at the former Cleveland Clothing Co. location and a space adjoining Tacologist. Most leasing in Uptown is managed by real estate company Cushman & Wakefield/CRESCO Real Estate, with University Circle Inc. also having a say in what businesses can operate in the area. Rent prices continue to increase in the Uptown corridor and University Circle area as more people continue to move to this area of Cleveland, with the price increases driving CWRU’s decision to move the bookstore and Dunkin’ to properties they directly owned. Additionally there have also been instances of local restaurants, such as Simply Greek, not being given the opportunity to renew their lease, even when more money was offered, because of the real estate company and University Circle Inc.’s preference for more high-scale and brand-name establishments.

This all makes Planet Fitness’s opening a natural fit for the increasingly gentrified neighborhood, though questions remain as to whether it best serves the needs of the CWRU community. The grand opening was full of pomp and festivities, with balloons, cake, pizza, merchandise and raffle prizes—some were pretty substantial, such as a 65” TV, an Apple Watch, an air fryer and an Instant Pot. The gym itself is clean, with oodles of purple gym equipment filling the area that once contained bookshelves.

Aaron Ducksworth, the general manager of the Uptown Planet Fitness, expressed excitement at the opening of the new gym, saying the new gym was “glad to be in the community.”

“It’s a pretty good turnout for just coming into the community out of nowhere,” Ducksworth said. “I am aware that this used to be a bookstore prior to this and everyone was kind of shocked.”

With this only being the second Planet Fitness to open up within the city of Cleveland itself and the first on the east side of the city, many of the patrons of the new gym are Cleveland residents who will no longer be forced to travel to the suburbs to visit locations in South Euclid and Richmond Heights for their fitness fix. In their first month the new branch has already accumulated 1,000 members. Ducksworth expressed interest in making inroads with both CWRU students and University Hospitals workers to continue that pace of growth.

So far, CWRU students do not seem to be extremely sold.

“I am pretty disappointed to be honest with the new Planet Fitness,” Adam Goodman, a third-year electrical engineering student, said. “I understand the value of having a gym there, but I think about everything else that could have been put there. Like a good grocery store because I don’t think [Plum Market] has good selections for students. Or like an actual pharmacy, because we shouldn’t have to go that far to Rite Aid. I was pretty disappointed overall.”

Ari Glockner, a second-year computer science student, expressed similar reservations, adding that the proliferation of gyms in the area did not serve CWRU students: “There’s One-to-One Fitness on the [Case] Quad, there’s Wyant and Veale, there’s a gym in Triangle [Towers] for Triangle residents, there’s Orangetheory Fitness, there’s Tremont Athletic Club—there’s no reason why they needed another gym in this area.”