Altea Active, which signed its lease with RioCan REIT last week, will take possession of the old Canadian Tire retail store on Carling Avenue in August.Things are shaping up nicely for Altea Active, a wellness and social club that’s moving Canada’s fitness industry forward in new ways. It’s just announced that it’s coming to Ottawa, where a number of local business leaders have invested in the $30-million-plus project. Altea Active, which signed its lease with RioCan REIT last week, will take possession of the old Canadian Tire retail store on Carling Avenue in August. It plans to turn the 129,000-square-foot space into a premier spot for residents to be active, both physically and socially. The new facility, slated to open in late 2024, will offer boutique studio fitness facilities, state-of-the-art strength and cardio equipment, personal and small-group training, spa amenities and luxury hospitality. David Wu, the company’s president and co-founder, is part of a larger team that couldn’t be happier about creating a significant presence for Altea Active in the nation’s capital. “Ottawa is my hometown,” said Wu, who launched his company with Michael Nolan as chief operating officer. “It’s really exciting and fulfilling to be able to bring Altea Active to Ottawa because we really don’t have anything like it.” Wu and Nolan are former senior partners at Movati Athletic. They exited the company in July 2017 with the goal of building an even better business model and customer experience. That same year, they launched Altea (pronounced Al-tay-a) Active, searching for a location that didn’t break their two-year non-compete agreement with Movati. They bought land in Winnipeg to build their first club, which they opened in late 2019. It not only survived COVID but has done well, with more than 9,400 members, said Wu. In March 2022, Altea Active joined the scene in Toronto’s trendy Liberty Village, hitting membership capacity within the year as a result of low drop-out rates and high usage. This fall, the club will make its debut in Vancouver. It’s also opening a new facility in Milton, one of Canada’s fastest-growing communities, and is developing a site in Calgary. The company is thrilled, said Wu, about its Ottawa location, which offers great accessibility and visibility. It’s within sight of Highway 417 and is next to Westboro, which Wu sees as an underserved area for this kind of premium wellness and social club. The Glebe and Centretown are about a 10-minute drive away. “We started negotiations with RioCan in July 2021, so that’s how long we’ve been working on this.” Ottawa investors include Jeff York of Farm Boy fame; David Little, managing partner of Dentons’ Ottawa office; his wife, Andrea Johnson, who’s also a partner at Dentons; former Farm Boy CFO Marc Santerre; Nouville Holdings president Louis Tremblay; Econo Petroleum CEO Goldy Singh; Dentons partner Phil Rimer; entrepreneur Nathan Sheaff; Ottawa physicians Binny Kuriakose and Sanjay Acharya; Smart Living Properties CEO Tamer Abaza; and VCL Construction president Mark Dalton. Because of Altea’s high standard for a premium consumer experience, it’s been dubbed “The Farm Boy of Fitness.” Dalton’s company, VCL, is overseeing the redevelopment at 1660 Carling Ave. The company has a proven track record in the industry for completing projects on time and within budget. It works with growing retail chains, such as Ottawa-based Farm Boy, and was responsible for building most of the stores at the Ottawa Train Yards shopping district. “VCL’s niche has really been helping developers by shortening the time period, from the day they start spending money to when they start making money,” said Dalton. “That’s the critical part.” Dalton, who has more than 20 years’ experience in his industry, is also president of HEIN Construction, which built many of the Movati Athletic buildings in Ottawa with the same level of efficiency. Construction is his passion (as is boating; the Ottawa businessman owns Hucks Marine & Resort in the Thousand Islands region). Ottawa-based firm McRobie Architects, which designed the Movati clubs, will be working with Chapi Chapo Design from Toronto. While it’s easy to refer to Altea Active as a gym, it’s like saying Wayne Gretzky was a good hockey player in his day. Altea Active, in crafting its concept, did extensive research, looking closely at how other countries, including those in Europe, were designing their clubs to focus more on lifestyle and wellness. According to the company’s press release, the new flagship club in Ottawa will offer 200-plus classes per week across nine multi-purpose group fitness studios (a hot yoga studio, theatre-style cycle studio, boxing studio, anti-gravity fitness studio, fusion studio, small group training studio, private reformer pilates studio, women’s-only studio, and the signature studio featuring HIIT, core, dance, boot camps and other strength and cardio sessions). The club will feature an eight-court indoor pickleball facility, a five-lane, 25-metre lap pool and toddler swim area, and a women’s-only club with cardio and strength machines. Its spa services will include dry saunas and steam cabins, massage therapy, compression and vibration therapies, cold-plunge immersion and a meditation lounge with a Himalayan salt wall. It will also offer a co-working area and lounge space and such social amenities as virtual golf. Other features will include a smoothie bar, a Starbucks Coffee outlet, and Catalyst Kitchen & Cocktails, which will be open for members and guests. The Toronto location has wine-tasting and salsa dancing, guest DJs and drag show brunches. Special events and entertainment are curated based on the interests of members. The new club is expected to create between 200 and 250 part-time and full-time jobs in the health, wellness and hospitality sectors, according to Melanie St-Amour, human resource director for Altea Active. Perks will include employee stock options and flexible work-week programs. “When we look to recruit team members, a large focus for us is on the attitude and the mindset and the energy that somebody brings,” she said. “It’s those soft skills. We’ll teach people how to use the front-desk systems and we’ll teach them how to sell memberships, but we’re looking for people who have the same core beliefs and values as we do and who want to be part of something that’s about improving somebody’s journey and creating experiences. “Naturally, by having like-minded people, it fosters a culture where they want to be there, they’re happy to be there, and that trickles into our workplace feel.” St-Amour is also a business partner at Altea, along with her husband, marketing manager Rob Malloff. They used to work at Movati, as did the majority of the current Altea Active management team (which was responsible for the growth plan of Movati clubs in Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area). The team’s connection to the fitness club has jokingly earned it the nickname “Movati 2.0.” Membership fee prices are not yet available for the Ottawa club. “There are a lot of people in Ottawa who will pay and are happy to pay a little bit more for a premium service,” said Dalton, who described the experience of visiting the facility to being in a high-end social club. Fitness clubs, which were forced to temporarily close during the pandemic, are enjoying “a sharp rebound,” said Wu. Conversely, at-home fitness equipment and devices, such as Peloton and Lululemon Mirror, are on the decline. “People are craving social connection,” he added. The pandemic may have slowed Altea down, but the company is making up for lost time. “We have to move forward,” said Wu, while noting that they're designing the new facilities to be well-ventilated and have open areas. In their respective interviews, Wu, Dalton and St-Amour each expressed a strong sense of teamwork within the company, as well as feelings of pride in being able to open an Altea Active Club in their hometown, where friends, family and community can benefit from its offerings. Said St-Amour: “It feels good to be able to share what we’re doing. We can talk about it and share pictures and renderings, but until you come and experience it, only then can you understand what we’re pouring our hearts and souls into.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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