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Residents rally to save South End Fitness Center

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  September 5, 2012 06:41 PM

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(Photo by Johanna Kaiser for boston.com)

A sign posted at the corner of Washington and Worcester streets in the South End calls on residents help save the South End Fitness Center.

Boston residents are rallying to save the publicly owned South End Fitness Center from being replaced by a high-rise tower of luxury apartments proposed as part of a planned redevelopment of the Northampton Square complex.

"Don't demolish it, update and preserve it," an online petition signed by nearly 500 people reads. "The South End Fitness Center is a valuable public health and prevention resource with its pool and gym."

The movement to protect the gym and pool at the border of the South End and Lower Roxbury comes as the Boston Public Health Commission, which owns the 3.3 acre campus between Harrison Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, Albany Street, and Northampton Street, works with Trinity Financial to refurbish two of its buildings and build a third.

The site is currently home to a 29-story tower at 35 Northampton St. and a 12-story tower at 860 Harrison Ave. The proposed project would rehabilitate both residential buildings and convert the existing office space at 35 Northampton St. to 11 handicap accessible units, creating or maintaining a total of 358 units that will be rented below market rate.

A third component of the project that is still in the works could build a 24-story tower on the corner of Northampton and Albany streets, where the South End Fitness Center is currently located.

While units in the current structures will remain affordable housing, the new tower would replace the gym and pool with 215 new luxury apartments. The gym currently offers affordable memberships to residents and low-cost activities to non-profits.

Boston.com previously reported that while the demolished fitness center would be rebuilt, the pool would not because of the cost associated with constructing and designing a new one.

Now, residents and gym members want to make sure there are affordable opportunities for residents to exercise and stay healthy.

"It is a publicly own gym that is operated by the BPHC with low membership fees," read signs posted throughout the South End calling on residents to sign the online petition or join the Save South End Fitness Center Facebook page. "Now is not the time to eliminate affordable fitness opportunities for Bostonians!"
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Twitter: @Your_SouthEnd
E-mail: johanna.yourtown@gmail.com

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