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Merritt Clubs in Canton says new rooftop deck will be 'hottest place in Baltimore'

By Baltimore Business Journal

By   – Digital Editor, Baltimore Business Journal
Dec 13, 2017 

Ever thought about getting married at a gym?

You might not think that's so crazy after seeing the renovations currently underway at Merritt Clubs' Canton location.

Work is wrapping up on a $20 million, eight-story addition to the athletic club, which includes a rooftop deck with two pools, a bar and a restaurant, 20,000 square feet of new workout space, a ground-level indoor pool and 300 parking spaces.

Merritt Athletic Clubs announced the renovations more than a year ago, and are now starting to show off the changes to members, giving them hard-hat tours upon request. I was able to take one of those tours Monday, and saw everything they have planned for the gym.

The first floor of the new structure, located just behind its already existing gym, will be open to members some time in mid-February, said Mark Miller, chief operating officer of Merritt Clubs. That will include 20,000 square feet of additional workout space on the ground floor, including indoor and outdoor turf for training, an expanded children's area, and a new six-lane, 25-yard-long swimming pool.

There will also be a new cafe and lounge on the first floor just off the workout space.

But the crown jewel of the renovations is a 25,000-square-foot rooftop deck, located on top of the new fitness area and six floors of parking. The deck is slated to include a children's pool, an adults-only pool and a hot tub. The pools will be used more for lounging and not exercise, Miller said.

The deck will also include a full bar and restaurant with 360-degree views of the city. In order to build out the new restaurant and bar, Merritt had to expand its current liquor license. It has applied to the city for change. Miller said Merritt is still working on a menu for the restaurant, but described it as "light and casual."

A number of lounge chairs and cabanas will also be placed around the deck area. When it's not being used by members, Miller said he hopes to hold private events there, such as weddings or networking events, since Merritt can provide catering services out of the kitchen on the roof. There will also be space for the club's instructors to hold small or private workouts, such as morning yoga, when the pools aren't open.

Josh Asbury, the project manager on the renovations, described the vibe of the rooftop area as "upscale" and "boutique-esque."

Miller predicted that the lounge was going to be "the hottest place in Baltimore" this summer.

"We want it to be as nice as the Four Seasons with all the amenities, but without the exclusivity," he said. "It's not going to be the elite of the elite, but it is going to be very popular."

While hours haven't been set yet, Miller said the rooftop pools and restaurant would likely be open between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., but those hours could be flexible based upon what events are taking place that day.

Asbury said Merritt plans on installing between four and six televisions near the bar, so even if the pools aren't open during the colder months, members could still sit up there to watch a Ravens or Orioles game.

This is only the first of a number of upgrades to Merritt's clubs across the Baltimore area, too.

Miller said there are "heavy capital investments" being made at all nine of Merritt's athletic clubs. The South Baltimore location off Fort Avenue is getting a new spin room and reception area, he said, and all the locations are getting new exterior finishes and new equipment in 2018.

Merritt is also exploring turf areas at some of its other locations, because members are looking for more "functional types of training."

The expansion in Canton is going to include an indoor and outdoor turf area for members to work out on. When it's nicer outside, glass doors along the first floor of the new Canton building will connect the indoor and outdoor turf areas as well, which the club will utilize when holding fitness competitions.

These upgrades are not expected to increase the cost of memberships for current members "at least for now," Miller said. All of the renovations are being carried out by Merritt Construction Services, the construction arm of the Baltimore-based Merritt Cos.

After work on the new workout area is complete, upgrades will begin on the current 50,000-square-foot gym, including the addition of a new locker area and improvements to the private studios, Miller said.

The gym, which currently has roughly 7,000 members, opened in 2003 and has not received any upgrades since then.