The gym is one of several retailers being displaced by the project. and Eric Tucker Jackhammers won't break ground for Robert Redford's new art-house movie theater complex for several months, but the early tremors of the project are already being felt by several area retailers, at least two of whom will leave the 40th Street area soon to make way for the cinema. Longtime campus gym University City Nautilus -- located on the Locust Street side of the Hamilton Village shopping center, the future site of the movie complex -- is being displaced by the construction and will close for good at the end of the day tomorrow, its manager said. Its neighbor, Bucks County Coffee Co., will close around November 1 and re-open when construction is complete in early 2000, a supervisor said. Burger King will also eventually leave its location at 40th and Walnut streets, Penn officials said; whether it will continue to operate elsewhere is unclear. "We don't have a place to do business," said UC Nautilus manager Bob Stern, who has worked at the gym for 17 of the 20 years it has been open. "We can't find a place in the neighborhood that's suitable." Stern said the closing of his 300-member establishment has nothing to do with last month's opening of the University's $1.2 million Katz Fitness Center, a two-story, high-tech, 7,500-square-foot facility inside Gimbel Gymnasium at 37th and Walnut streets. Bucks County will also be closing its doors, although only temporarily. Tom Lussenhop, the University's top real estate official, refused to comment on the store's future, except to say the University is "working on a creative relocation project" with Bucks. The third retailer affected by the project, Burger King, will be entirely displaced to make way for the theater, although officials refused to elaborate on what elements of the complex would take up the restaurant's space. Administrators have also announced plans to build a new parking garage and specialty food market, run by the owner of Philadelphia-area supermarket operator Drexeline, on the current site of a University-owned parking lot at 40th and Walnut streets. These additions are part of an ongoing effort to revitalize 40th Street and neighboring areas. At a press conference on Friday, Redford joined University President Judith Rodin to announce that one of the first-ever Sundance Cinemas would open on campus. The 40,000-square-foot-plus facility will likely be equipped with six to eight screens, as well as a restaurant, public meeting area, bar and video "library." The University informed Stern over the summer that the gym would have to find a new location by December in order to make room for the theater, Stern said. Penn officials identified a variety of potential sites, including two locations in the 4015 Walnut Street building -- which currently houses The Daily Pennsylvanian and University record-storage sites -- according to Stern. "University City Nautilus has been a good tenant. Unfortunately, we weren't able to locate another appropriate location for the gym," said John Greenwood, the managing director of University City Associates, Penn's for-profit real estate arm, operated by Trammell Crow Co. None of these sites, Stern said, is suitable for an exercise facility. He cited "visibility, size and a place to hang a sign" as criteria for the new UC Nautilus. Still, the gym is searching for another location in a different area, particularly Center City, Stern said. UC Nautilus currently serves about 200 students and 100 West Philadelphia residents, some of whom voiced disappointment over the gym's closing. "This is definitely a disaster," said Engineering junior Toochie Pal, who said he worked out at UC Nautilus four times a week. "One of the reasons why I go here is because it's so close" to his home. In the future, Pal said, he'll "go to Gimbel." John Puckett, a 51-year-old area resident and seven-year UC Nautilus member, said he thinks the closing is "sad." "It's been a neighborhood kind of place and certainly convenient for folks like me who live in West Philadelphia," said Puckett, who also expressed interest in joining Gimbel. Stern said gym patrons will either receive refunds or have their memberships transferred to a Center City gym, although no plans have been finalized. Equally disappointed were employees next door at Bucks County Coffee. The coffee shop, which opened in 1995, will also close down to make way for the theater, albeit temporarily. The company has another campus location on the 3400 block of Sansom Street. "I'm losing my job," said Leah Murray, a 22-year-old shift supervisor and student at the nearby Community College of Philadelphia. "I'm not going to sit around and wait for Bucks to open back up. I won't be here." Officials hope the newly renovated cafe will complement the entertainment complex when it opens for business sometime in 2000. But while Bucks and Nautilus employees said they were sad to leave campus, officials at several other 40th Street stores expressed optimism about the development. "I think it's going to have a huge impact on this area," said Paul Ryan, owner of Smokey Joe's bar and restaurant. "It makes it a destination for people all over the city. The possibilities are endless."Comments powered by Disqus
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