During the 1980s, a few large corporations caught on to the idea of improving their employees' health -- and thereby lowering the company's medical costs -- by installing in-house fitness centers.
Now that the 1990s are here and a recession has struck, fitness centers may become a cure all for something else: commercial real estate vacancies.
One local development company, Heritage Properties Inc. of Towson, has turned to the idea of having a fitness center on the premises to keep their tenants happy and on board.
Heritage installed the center in July at its Fairmount Place Complex at the corner of Joppa Road and Fairmount Avenue. Since the center opened, the two buildings that make up the complex are 97 percent and 100 percent leased.
Officials attribute the success of the buildings in part to the fitness center. But they say also that other services such as a delicatessen, bank, cleaners and travel agency, which occupy the first floor of the buildings, make the complex an attractive place to be.
"Anybody can have an office building," said Connie Stancill, leasing manager for Fairmount Place. "But one of the things we've noticed is that it's very difficult when you go to the office to get out and do the things you need.
"So one of the things we decided we would do is bring the services to the tenant," Stancill added.
The fitness center was the result of a survey of tenant wants, said Stancill. Heritage officials took six months studying the feasibility of such an undertaking and ultimately hired Saul Kuciauskas, owner of the National Fitness and Health Corp. in Hunt Valley, as a consultant.
Besides the obvious time-saving advantage of an in-house center, Kuciauskas said if companies can get 80 percent of their most sedentary employees into an exercise regime, medical costs could be reduced up to 40 percent within two years.
Since the center opened at Fairmount Place, approximately 450 employees -- more than half of the workers in the two buildings -- have become members.
The 1,000-square-foot facility includes aerobic bicycles, stair-climbing machines and a circuit weight-training system. The equipment cost Heritage approximately $35,000, Stancill said.
Members have access to free locker rooms and showers, she added. Tenant companies pay a fee to join the fitness center and can pass those costs along to employees who sign up.
The following leasing transactions were announced by Hicks & Rotner Associates Inc.:
* Luskins, a regional appliance and electronic store, has leased a 10,000-square-foot store at Frederick Square in Frederick. Hicks & Rotner represented the tenant and landlord.
* Evertek Computers, a computer wholesaler, has leased 1,800 square feet in the 4400 block of Baltimore National Pike in Catonsville. Hicks & Rotner represented the tenant and landlord.
* Repeat Performance Fashions, a local clothing consignment shop, has leased 2,000 square feet at the Bay Ridge Plaza on Forest Drive in Annapolis. Hicks & Rotner represented tenant and landlord.