Gym wants to take over vacant Pawcatuck site

Stonington - For the past five years the space in the Pawcatuck Shopping Center that last housed a Stop & Shop has sat vacant as the supermarket chain moved to its new location on Route 2.

While some residents wanted to see a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods open there, Stop & Shop held the lease and was not willing to see another grocery store open a few miles from its new store.

But now there is a tenant for the space as Bill Kane of Stonington, who owns Workout World/Renegade Sports locations in Waterford, Groton, Norwich and New London is seeking a permit to renovate the space into a Renegade Sports Center.

Kane, who could not be reached for comment Sunday, had been in the store earlier this winter with an architect looking at design options. He declined to discuss his plans publicly at that point. On Sunday, brown paper and two murals of people working out blocked the large windows that look into the store.

On Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Mystic Middle School, the Planning and Zoning Commission will consider a request by Kane for a zoning permit to change the use of the space from retail to personal services. The use is allowed in the GC-60 zone where the building is located.

The gym would operate from 4:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., with three to seven employees at any one time. No changes to the site are planned. A floor plan shows a lobby, offices and areas for exercise machines, free weights, spinning, bleachers, personal training, classes, tanning, locker rooms and saunas.

Because Kane is seeking a zoning permit from the commission it is an administrative decision that does not require a public hearing.

On his Facebook page Friday, First Selectman Ed Haberek called the business an "exciting addition to the town."

He said it has been a pleasure meeting and working with Kane to revitalize the longtime vacant location. Haberek had criticized Stop & Shop in the past for its efforts to stop a grocery store from moving into the location.

Last week, Heather Bessette, who owns I Can Fitness, posted her concerns about the impact of Kane's plans on her Facebook page saying it was not good news for her 18-year-old small business on Route 1 or the Ocean Community YMCA which has branches in Mystic and Westerly.

She urged people to "support local not chains!"

Haberek responded, saying Kane is local.

"Secondly, the YMCA has priced itself out of the market for locals. Believe me I know," posted Haberek, who frequents several local gyms.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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