Stronger, leaner physiques will soon develop in a downtown Naperville spot where little more than a year ago only photographs were developed.
Planners of a new location under the fitness franchise Pure Barre have been cleared to occupy the vacant former site of Ritz Camera & Wolf Image at 114 W. Jefferson Ave. The facility will offer fitness instruction using a traditional ballet barre and sell clothing and accessories for those who take part in the exercise.
City Council members discussed at some length the balance between program income and retail receipts before giving the proposal their blessing. The company needed a variance to allow a training studio to operate on the street level, a use ordinarily not allowed in a B4 commercial zoning district. Under the Naperville Downtown2030 plan, however, a variance in the downtown periphery is not out of the question — and the studio’s classes will conducted in an interior area, out of view from the street.
Building owner Steve Rubin said he was approached by a variety of business owners interested in renting the space, from food vendors to a company that specializes in accessories for teenage girls.
“This prospective tenant fed the mix that we feel is important to the downtown,” said Rubin, who also chairs the city’s Downtown Advisory Commission.
Owners of similar businesses disagreed. Stephanie Norris, co-owner of The Bar Method on Main Street, told council members they should strive to ensure the playing field remains as even as possible, asserting that the former camera shop “is not in desperate need of a tenant” and is best reserved for an entirely retail use.
“Pure Barre as they are proposing it is not a proven retail model,” said Norris, who told the council she was speaking on behalf of several service-oriented downtown businesses.
She and her business partner, Emma Jordan, also addressed the Planning & Zoning Commission about the proposal last month before the commission’s 6-3 vote in support of the plan.
Chris Dalton, Pure Barre’s real estate director, told the planning board that the location could yield $500,000 in receipts annually, divided evenly between instruction income and revenue from retail sales.
Norris and Jordan are skeptical of those projections, however. Norris said the chain’s other locations have yet to reach that mark. The Bar Method’s retail sales, she said, come “nowhere near” equaling the income derived from its classes.
“I just want all of you consider your current business owners, who also are homeowners in Naperville,” Norris said.
Councilman Paul Hinterlong said the proposed location essentially is in a “buffer zone” that doesn’t call for the same parameters as a business placed in the heart of a retail core. He supported the plan, though he said more businesses of the same kind could create an imbalance. In addition to The Bar Method, the niche exercise format is also available in Naperville at The Dailey Method, which operates in the Fifth Avenue Station building.
“I don’t see it hurting the downtown. I think it’ll benefit the downtown,” Hinterlong said.
The retail-tuition ratio didn’t concern Rubin, who pointed out that if sales volume from the store area falls much short of expectations, the tenant won’t earn enough to pay the rent.
“We were attracted by the women’s apparel component” in deciding to support the proposal, Rubin said.
Council member Doug Krause, who voiced a belief that parking problems would arise from the studio and store, cast the sole vote against granting the variance.
Councilman Grant Wehrli noted that any business use of the space will add to the downtown area’s parking needs. He said he liked the possibility that early-morning traffic resulting from Pure Barre patrons coming downtown for classes would help fuel commerce in the retail core.
“It breathes life into the downtown at a time when I think we need it, in a very unique way,” Wehrli said.