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With Equinox Fitness moving in, is the Marina becoming big box friendly?

Equinox’s new home photo: Chris Trayhorn

A groundbreaking ceremony on November 13, 2012, signaled the beginning of a much-needed facelift for the landmark Metro Theater, which has been a boarded up blight on Union Street for nearly a decade. In February of 2012 the Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the remodel of the 90-year-old building into a multi-level workout facility for luxury gym chain Equinox Fitness. The renovation will include three levels of gym space as well as a small community room that will be used for screenings and other neighborhood activities 18 times per year. Equinox, which has locations in the United Kingdom and Canada as well as more than 60 locations nationwide (including one inside the old Pacific Coast Stock Exchange in downtown San Francisco), will pour millions of dollars into the renovation, which includes preservation of the distinctive Spanish Colonial/Art Deco style marquee, vertical blade and façade exterior, as well as the murals and columns inside the building.

The project has the support of District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, who gave the keynote speech at the groundbreaking ceremony, as well as the major community associations, many of whose leaders also attended the event. Farrell is well known for his support of bringing business to the neighborhood, so that’s no surprise. What is a bit of a surprise is the support of some of the community associations that have been anti-“big box store” in the past. In light of the fact that there are currently more than 100 fitness centers and personal training companies located in the Marina and Cow Hollow neighborhoods, it gives me hope that the associations realize lots of business, even big box business, is better for the neighborhood than empty storefronts and slow foot traffic. As the old saying goes, “The best place to open a shoe store is on a street with other shoe stores.” In other words, neighborhood businesses from restaurants to retail to other fitness companies will all benefit from a thriving Equinox inside the old Metro Theater.

In next month’s issue, we will take a look at another boarded up blight, the old Blockbuster building on Lombard Street. Pet
Food Express, which started in San Francisco in 1980 with a small store in West Portal and now has 43 locations throughout the Bay Area, will make another attempt to move into the space. They tried to open there several years ago but were unsuccessful with the Planning Commission, due mainly to the opposition of some of the community associations.

The Marina Times has a relationship with Pet Food Express that began in 2009, shortly after my undercover expose “How the San Francisco SPCA let us down” was published and caused a huge shake-up at the top of the organization. Pet Food Express is very active in the Bay Area animal rescue community, and they took notice of my passion to help San Francisco’s homeless animals. Mike Murray, director of community relations at Pet Food Express as well as chairperson of Golden State German Shepherd Rescue, approached me with an idea to help San Francisco’s grassroots rescue groups and Animal Care and Control by showcasing their available animals through ads in the Marina Times. Since households in the Marina zip code have more dogs than kids, we both agreed it was a great way to bring awareness to animals in need as well as to find them wonderful forever homes in this beautiful neighborhood.

Pet Food Express plans to bring that same sense of community to the Lombard Street location with the inclusion of a cat adoption center. And, like Equinox, they will do a renovation on the deteriorating structure that includes a new, well-lit façade, updated parking, and landscaping, as well as a completely re-modeled interior.

I don’t know where the major community associations stand on the new Pet Food Express store, but since they were so supportive of Equinox moving into the neighborhood, I hope they will give them a fair chance this time around.

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