A bespoke fit-out has regenerated an old school building in Caversham to create a boutique fitness centre that would be at home in major cities around the world.
Caversham Health Club by iST Fitness, a 6,500 sq ft gym and fitness studio, has opened in Archway Road, close to St Martin’s Centre. The club aims to take health and fitness to a new level and the fit-out aims to do the same with the building.
Initially a tiny school, dating back almost 150 years, the building has been added to and altered numerous times. It has been a community centre and a place for adult education over the last 50 years and, at one point, was earmarked for demolition when nearby Waitrose wanted to expand.
Since then Hermes, owner of the St Martin’s Centre, has bought the building from the council and its new occupier has set about a transformation which, for those who only know it from its days of jumble sales and pottery classes, might find hard to grasp.
Isaac Smith Tibby and his partner Sophie Melton, both fitness professionals, had run a 1,000 sq ft gym half a mile away in Ardler Road since 2018. In January 2021, having kept training their clients online amid lockdown restrictions, they sought a bigger site. Social distancing requirements had made reopening impractical.
Ms Melton said: “Lockdown gave us a chance to start thinking about this location.”
With the help of investors, around £700,000 has been spent to create the club and the couple have taken a 30-year lease.
However, the size of the building was a leap ahead of what they had planned as their next step and it wasn’t in great shape.
Mr Smith Tibby said he was shocked by the condition of the interior when he first saw it but knew it had potential.
He added: “When we first looked at it we liked it but didn’t know what to do with it.”
Their own ideas for a black and white theme combined with some sealed bare brick walls has created a boutique design.
The indoor cycling studio with its black walls and large screen allows spin classes to be held with a cinema feel and alterations to the building over decades are evident in bare walls of the main gym area.
Ms Melton said: “We could have just painted the walls but we wanted bespoke spaces. We wanted to make it extra special so it is a destination.”
Mr Smith Tibby says the market for fitness has had a tendency to take a step forward at intervals of around a decade and Caversham Health Club seeks to be at the forefront.
He added: “About every 10 years it evolves, the market springs forward. It can be due to something like a new fitness craze or just a different philosophy.
“We cater for people who want to be in a high-level environment and want to invest in themselves.”
As well as the main gym area there are three studios, changing areas in the style of a high-spec hotel and a reception area with meeting/lounge space.
Mr Smith Tibby said: “We are bringing a little bit of London or New York to Caversham.”
A tour of the space can be viewed or downloaded here. You may find it best viewed in Safari. Or browse gallery below.
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