The Rt 45 Woodbury Heights Giant Fitness gym will remain open and the plans for a LIDL Grocery at the site is being canceled, according to Giant Fitness owner Sam Balducci.
42Freeway reported on the LIDL proposal just a few days ago, as the project was in review with the County just weeks prior.
Balducci tells us that the main impact to cause the cancellation of the project was the need to manage water on the property; stormwater and natural wetlands identified by the NJDEP.
While the property and current building is perfectly fine as it is now, any new development must meet today’s updated development and environmental regulations.
The project was 100% valid just a week or so ago, and quickly came apart around the time that 42Freeway learned of it.
Giant Fitness is 100% driven to remain open in Woodbury Heights and it’s other locations, and in fact continue will continue to expand.
42Freeway got the exclusive run down of his exciting projects in Blackwood, Westville, Mt Ephraim and a Jersey Shore town, which we will share highlights here and will post again later with additional details.
Factor in the Voorhees headquarters location is just 4 years old, Giant will remain a giant in the area gym business for a long time.
In chatting with Balducci it’s very clear to me he never really wanted to position any of his properties for sale, but back in 2020 he felt he had tough decisions to make in a pandemic impacted world.
Read on for more on LIDL Woodbury Heights, the reason behind the Giant location sale, and future (Now!) Giant plans!
Every Inch Counts – LIDL
LIDL has a specific required size for it’s stores, which then for zoning (and logical) reasons needs a specific amount of parking spaces to support the customers.
To make the project work, the original plans utilized basically the entire property surface of the Giant Fitness and OceanFirst Bank lots.
From the planning application and discussions with government officials, developers were requested to make adjustments to the design to accommodate for water… which could only be done by reducing the buildable area of the property.
And since building size drives capacity, which drives parking requirements… if the parking lot spaces were reduced then the building size would also need to be reduced, and a smaller building won’t meet LIDL requirements.
Balducci tells us the final decision was made just in the last day and just yesterday (Wednesday July 7) an official letter was drafted by the development group for project stakeholders, announcing that the project would not be able to continue.
We wanted to get this updated news out to readers, so at this time we do not have a statement from LIDL.
Giant Fitness: 100% Commitment to Growth: More Locations and Concepts
Balducci and his team are 100% focused on continuing the brand, continuing in Woodbury Heights, continuing growth with larger locations, new locations and new concepts.
But the Mt. Laurel location of Giant Fitness is now a car wash which opened just 3 months ago. And yes, the Woodbury Heights location had an agreement of sale for LIDL.
So the public (and gym members) have to wonder; where do things stand with Giant Fitness?
Simply: Pandemic Business Impacts in 2020 made for tough decisions.
But first a step back. Mark from 42Freeway has had a chance to chat with Balducci a few times over the last few days and simply… he is an amazing guy who has a career of making the right decisions at the right times.
He started his gym ownership career in the late 1980s, at one time having a World Fitness gym in the long gone Square 130 Mall in Cinnaminson. He later sold that gym franchise location.
Balducci also started a business as a gym equipment distributor which in a few short years he was able grow into a much larger business, and several years later he accepted a buyout offer he couldn’t refuse.
After that sale and sitting in a good place financially, still a young man with a lot of energy and ideas, he needed a new challenge.
Gym ownership was still in Balducci’s blood, and while he enjoyed his experience as a franchise operator he made the decision that he was going to create his own gym brand.
And where he could, he would own the property. He didn’t want to have to follow the rules of franchise agreements and landlords. He wanted to be in the drivers seat.
So backed by the success of his equipment distributorship sale, Balducci started Giant Fitness.
Realizing the market was being filled with discount gym operators, he developed a business plan that offered affordable Gym membership rates…. in a facility which could accommodate all types of exercise enthusiast.
And with the history background out of the way, now back to Woodbury Heights and Mt Laurel (and you’ll see why I went in this order!)
During the start of the 2020 Covid Pandemic, New Jersey was one of the leading States in efforts to control the spread of the virus.
Businesses were closed across the state at varying levels based on the business type, and one of the most impacted businesses were gyms.
Basically gyms were the last to reopen, and for the longest time no one really had a clue when the Governor and the State of New Jersey would allow gyms to reopen.
So there was a reason I placed the history of Balducci and Giant Fitness where I did. He owns all of his properties but one.
So when the doors are locked shut for the pandemic with no revenue coming in, and there is no end in site for the mandated closures to end.. well there wasn’t a landlord for Balducci to push back on to reduce the rent.
Balducci is his own landlord.
With multiple locations of very large buildings on very large properties, well just owning them comes at a high cost each month. Taxes, loans, HVAC.
So it was during the New Jersey time of business closure that he begrudgingly decided to see what interest he could get in some of his properties. It wasn’t really a secret… the property listings were on public commercial websites.
And both Mt Laurel and Woodbury Heights got “bites”.
Literally the LIDL project for Woodbury Heights has been in the works for 2+ years.
Today with the threat of closures happening again very minimal, Balducci is focused on further expanding his brand.
2022 Should Be A Giant Year for Giant Fitness
Balducci gave 42Freeway a rundown of the exciting projects he has in process right now, and many of them will be opening up this year!
Jersey Girls Westville
First up… and one that I don’t think people aren’t aware of… Just last month he purchased the former Club Fitness on Broadway in Westville, and will soon be opening it as an all-women’s gym called Jersey Girls.
Jersey Girls : I previously mentioned that a goal for Giant Fitness was to make it a comfortable workout place for all gym members. With that in mind, Balducci and the team started to create within their existing gyms a dedicated (and private) workout area for Women members.
What is unique about the Westville location is, the entire large gym will be a dedicated Jersey Girls women’s gym center.
Yes there are other women’s focused exercise facilities in the area, but I am not sure if any have an entire gym of this size dedicated to only women! It really should be a game-change for female fitness and athletics.
Balducci says when he starts a project he aims to do everything right the first time. He is bringing in all new equipment, upgrading the entire facility… even all seven air conditioning units are being replaced with all new units!
Jersey Girls Westville is targeted to open very soon… this summer!
For the record, the building is actually located in Deptford based on a unique town property line that seems to wrap around the building, but everyone clearly seems to consider it Westville.
Giant Fitness Blackwood-Clementon
The Blackwood location of Giant Fitness will be relocating to a large building on Blackwood-Clementon Road later this year, and with the large amount of space available it’s poised to become the Giant Fitness flagship location.
The Blackwood-Clementon Road location would replace the existing Giant Fitness which is on the Black Horse Pike. Essentially this is a relocation to a larger facility.
42Freeway reported on the move to Blackwood-Clementon Road back in June 2020 when the project appeared
So yes this Planning approval was during the height of the Covid shutdowns, but the plans and contracts for this deal started before Covid.
Balducci made the decision to purchase the Commerce Plaza II building mainly for space… parking and building.
While the current location on the Black Horse Pike has been very successful for the brand, it was limited in size and an odd disjointed parking lot configuration.
So this should catch the eye of 42Freeway readers who like to call out the state of some of the long empty buildings on Blackwood-Clementon Road.
Balducci bought the entire building. That large building behind Cherrywood Liquors and the former Friendly’s.. is going to 100% be a massive array of businesses from the Giant Fitness family.
And while it appears not much is happening and they have a long way to go… Balducci says the facility will be open before the year is out. Currently crews have been working inside the building building out the interior infrastructure such as all new electrical and HVAC systems.
So not only will this give Giant a lot more room to expand the gym, they will also have a sea of parking space available!
And within that large building they will provide the best that Giant can offer.
Blackwood-Clementon will offer both a traditional (larger) Giant Fitness gym, and a separate Jersey Girls women’s gym
Balducci explains it as there will be one main front door entrance to the gym with a front reception area, but from there they will have two separate doors to two different gyms; Giant Fitness and Jersey Girls.
Balducci is also involved in a few other related businesses, and will be including them in the building.
Clean Plate Meal Prep: A healthy meal-prep service offering pick-up of delicious healthy meals.. and they also deliver in our area using their own delivery personnel to ensure the product is perfect when you receive it at home!
Nutrishop: High Quality Sports Nutrition, Supplements & Vitamins. A Nutrishop store is also in their Voorhees location.
Balducci says he hopes to be open on Blackwood-Clementon soon after the summer, and definitely before the year closes out
Cannabis Dispensary – Black Horse Pike
So what happens to the Giant Fitness building on the Black Horse Pike?
While there weren’t a lot of details at this time, Balducci has a business interested in turning the Black Horse Pike property into a dispensary.
He feels the location is very suited to this type of business, as it is segregated from residential neighborhoods, has it’s entrance and parking in the rear, and of course sits on a well traveled roadway.
If approved, for the most part area residents and those driving by wouldn’t realize it was a dispensary at all, except for the signage!
Giant Fitness Mt Ephraim Expansion
The Mount Ephraim location is about to go under a small expansion, which will also improve the member parking situation.
A 3,000 square foot expansion will be added to the back of the building, as well as a small reconfiguration of the front parking lot which will add seven new parking spots.
Balducci says there really is no new revenue with this expansion… it’s simply to provide a better gym and parking experience for his members.
South Jersey Observer reported on the Planning Board meeting which is now scheduled for next week.
Giant Fitness Jersey Shore
Balducci also surprised 42Freeway with another news item.
Next week he closes on a property in a Southern Jersey Beach town, and is set to appear before their planning board this summer.
42Freeway does know the exact location but since the property has not officially changed hands yet, we agreed to hold on sharing that.
Just means we’ll have another update soon!
Full Steam Ahead
So as stated… it’s full-steam-ahead for the Giant Fitness Family. They have a lot on their plate for 2022 and honestly, I full expect a lot more exciting projects to be in their plans for 2023 and beyond!
Links and Locations
Giant Fitness Website
Giant Fitness Woodbury Heights
880 Mantua Pike
Woodbury Heights, NJ 08097
Giant Fitness Blackwood (Current Location)
834 North Black Horse Pike,
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Other locations: Washington Township, Mount Ephraim, Voorhees, Northeast Philadelphia