Development

Fitler Club at 2400 Market a Study in Contrasts

June 12, 2023 | by Stacia Friedman

Design firms Gensler and Varenhorst transformed the former Hudson Motor Car Company building at 2400 Market Street into Aramark’s global headquarters between 2016-18. The Fitler Club, a private lifestyle club, opened in 2019 and occupies the first three floors. | Photo: Aramark

Upwardly mobile millennials and Gen Xers tend to spend a lot of time and money on fitness centers, coworking spaces, trendy restaurants, bars, art museums, and childcare. So, why not put all these puzzle pieces together under one roof and throw in 14 luxury hotel rooms, a ballroom, a movie theater, bowling alley, HD golf simulator, a salon, and a killer view of the Schuylkill River? The result is Fitler Club at 2400 Market Street.

The club, which opened in 2019, is situated on the lower three floors of an old industrial building that originally housed the Hudson Motor Car Company back in the 1920s. Previously known as the Guaranty Industrial Building, it was occupied by the Philadelphia Design Marketplace by the 1980s. The only traces of the building’s architectural heritage are the huge interior concrete columns and exterior masonry medallions visible on the first floor along Market Street.

Architectural embellishments on the exterior of 2400 Market Street in 1932 and today. | Photos courtesy of PhillyHistory.org and Annie Schlechter via Fitler Club

When the property changed hands in 2016, the design firms Gensler and Varenhorst transformed 2400 Market Street into a modern, nine-story building with an eye on sustainability and green space for the global headquarters of Aramark, the anchor tenant which occupies the top five floors. Given its current inclusion of Fitler Club, it is now one one of the largest mixed-use projects in the region.

Fitler Club presents a study in contrasts, starting with its entrance. One point of entry is on the promenade which offers a panoramic view that is both serene and exciting. Just beyond the Schuylkill River is Philly’s main transportation hub, 30th Street Station, adjacent to the gleaming tower of the Cira Center designed by Cesar Pelli. While the promenade entrance offers a stunning view conveying modernity and power, the 24th Street entrance is, basically, an alley sandwiched between loading docks facing the back of 23rd Street Armory, a Gothic fortress designed by Horace Trumbauer in 1900. The austere entrance calls to mind the grittiness of The Sopranos more than the elite elegance of Succession. “There was definite intentionality to our embrace of the discreet feel for our 24th Street entrance,” said Amanda Potter, Fitler Club’s lead designer and co-founder of Good City Studio. “We love the grittiness, and our entrance is very much the opposite of say, the Union League. It also lends itself well to evening arrivals in Ubers.”

Fitler Club’s 24th Street entrance. | Photo: Stacia Friedman

The 24th Street entrance leads to a reception area featuring a clickety-clickety-clack vintage train station flip sign announcing club events. This is where members traipse by in spandex with towels draped over a shoulder and AirPods in their ears. The women’s locker room would pass inspection at a five-star hotel, as would the swimming pool, weight room, pilates area, climbing wall, etc.

M-Rad, an architectural design firm in Los Angeles, was initially involved but, after designing the hotel section of the Fitler Club, the project was lead by Potter and Micha Hanson, founder of Hexagon Studio Architects in Philadelphia. “The architectural bones of the structure, high ceilings, and light provided rich opportunities,” said Potter.

The view west from Offsite, the coworking space at Fitler Club. | Photo courtesy of Annie Schlechter via Fitler Club

Hanson, who designed the 34,000-square-foot coworking space known as Offsite, was equally impressed. “The building was ripe with inspiration,” he said. “The unifying element was the industrial nature of the structure which we celebrated by using its columns as central elements.” Another focus was on noise and vibration reduction which are endemic to fitness centers. “When 70 people in a room spinning hits the right frequency the entire building vibrates,” he said. “We took several measures to isolate noise within the premises using rubber tiles, sound proof insulation, and double-wall construction.”

“The most complex area to design was the restaurant,” said Potter. “It was difficult because the space has to feel intimate and inviting, yet edgy.” To achieve this, Potter researched photos of Philly’s industrial era which she used in the dining room’s decor along with black and white fashion photography by Pamela Hanson.

The balcony at Fitler Club. | Photo courtesy of Annie Schlechter via Fitler Club

“It was a project of a lifetime for me,” said Potter, “but the vision for the club was really driven by David,” referring to Fitler Club founder David Gutstadt. He is also the co-founder of Good City Studio which specializes in the design of hotels, clubs, and wellness centers. Potter and Gutstadt had previously worked together for Equinox, the New York-based headquarters of over 100 national fitness centers.

“While Equinox is a very different model, we applied significant observations from our experience there,” said Potter. “Fitler Club is unique because it is the most comprehensive urban members club anywhere, combining social elements with extensive health and wellness, workspace, hotel, and event space.” By social elements Potter is referring to the club’s numerous events that bring members together in ways that cannot be achieved while swimming laps, lifting weights, or doing Pilates. “We have game nights, screen movies, chef’s table dinners, and art openings,” said Potter.

Fitler Club’s bar and fitness center. | Photos courtesy of Annie Schlechter via Fitler Club

Fitler Club’s investment in art includes the impressive digital art collection of Michael Forman, chair and CEO of FS Investments and one of the Club’s founders. There are works by Joseph Beuys, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Damien Hirst, and Charles Gaines, among others.

However, the club’s real game changer is its artists-in-residence program, which currently exhibits and supports 16 diverse Philadelphia artists, including Diane Burko and Mikel Elam. Fitler Club’s charitable arm, Fitler Foundation, provides a platform to showcase local artists whose work is exhibited in the club’s a 34,000-square-foot private and coworking space with conference rooms, board rooms, and meeting spaces. During the club’s first two years, $310,000 in art sales, without commission, went directly to the artists who also receive an annual $1,000 stipend. A private club that supports established and emerging artists? I’ll drink to that.



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About the Author

Stacia Friedman is a Philadelphia freelance writer and visual artist who tried New York and Los Angeles on for size and came home to roost. Her articles have appeared in WHYY’s Newsworks, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, Broad Street Review, and Chestnut Hill Local. She loves the city’s architecture, history, and vibrant arts scene.

3 Comments:

  1. Charles thomson says:

    Great piece combining expertise in design, architecture, planning, urbanism, business & personal insight – of corse fine writing. My old professor at Yale, Vincent Scully, would have agreed. Bravo again Hidden City.

  2. James says:

    Thanks for showing us the innards of the building as we would never have gained access to this building without Stacia Friedman’s efforts to show us what was inside

  3. Joe Deegan says:

    Interesting !

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