Construction crews were busy this week gutting the cavernous old Yankee Doodles building as developer Kurt Schneiter walked through the rubble wearing a hard hat and a smile.
“We should be open this summer,” Schneiter of Maverick Investments said about the transformation of the 14,000-square-foot post-WWII building at 4100 E. Ocean Blvd. into a state-of-the-art fitness center.
He’s calling the new gym Olympix, inspired by the many Olympians who live in Long Beach, and its multimillion-dollar build-out is fully underway. Schneiter is working with Jan van Dijs, who is partnering with architect Gary Lamb, to design the project, juxtaposing portions of the original building, including the 30-foot-high ceiling trusses, with modern elements.
“We are looking to create a healthy environment that we can all share,” van Dijs has said. “We want to improve the area, and we think we have designed something that will compliment the neighborhood… When we looked at this derelict building, we wanted to find the very best solution.”
Despite incorporating some original elements, it’s still a complete reinvention of the space, which was originally Belmont Bowl and then Big John’s Billiards prior to the popular but disreputable Yankee Doodles making its home there in 1978.
Gone are the old pool tables and decaying murals that were part of a window-less venue plagued by violent incidents, lawsuits and eventual bankruptcy.
In their place, Schneiter is filling the long-vacant building with a rooftop patio and light from windows overlooking the ocean. His vision is to create a beach-centric, upscale gym that encourages its members to exercise indoors and out.
His business partner, Jarrett Tooley, who was a college basketball player and is seasoned in the fitness industry, will serve as the gym’s general manager. Tooley said he is excited to begin reviewing job applications and soon begin welcoming the gym’s “founding members” who can join for special pre-sale rates.
Tooley promises that some of the equipment going into Olympix cannot be found anywhere else in Long Beach, and he said membership will be capped to ensure that the place isn’t ever too crowded.
He said those interested in finding out more about the gym and its progress should visit www.olympixfitness.com or follow the gym on social media. Job applications are available online now, and Tooley said he expects to hire about 50 employees.
Additionally, the building will include an office space for Schneiter as well as a public café, coffee and juice bar, which will be run by entrepreneur and visionary Kerstin Kansteiner, who is the founder of other related businesses in town such as Portfolio Coffeehouse and Berlin Bistro.
Despite the concept’s many supporters, there were some who fought against the plans for Olympix, which originally was slated for completion in late 2015 or early this year. A few area residents opposed the project last year, filing appeals that noted that the gym and rooftop patio could disturb nesting birds, add to light pollution and noise in the area, and have a negative impact on parking. Those appeals were dismissed, but the project was delayed by several months.
When he purchased the building, Schneiter said he could have decided to bring another Yankee Doodles-type of concept in, or he could have worked with a national fitness chain instead of creating a custom concept, but he believes what he has envisioned is the best use for the property and the community.
With quality in mind, Schneiter has been behind several other projects in Long Beach. He brought Nick’s on 2nd, a popular eatery, to a block he owns on Second Street. He’s the owner of the East Village building housing Fingerprints music store and Berlin Bistro. He also helped bring new life to the Masonic Temple downtown as The Loft on Pine, among other endeavors.
He said he’s a man who has lived and invested in Long Beach for a quarter century, and he believes the finished development of Olympix is going to be better than even he imagined it could be.
“We’ve figured out the best project possible with what we’ve got here with this space, and I believe the community is going to be happy,” Schneiter said. “We have the flexibility that a big corporation doesn’t have to make sure that this is truly a clean, quality, community-driven project.”
Ashleigh Ruhl can be reached at email@example.com.