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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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Planet Fitness coming to Eagle Village

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A rendering of Planet Fitness’ planned Eagle Village location. Image courtesy of UMW Foundation.

Planet Fitness will open its first area gym in Fredericksburg’s Eagle Village mixed-use development.

The company this week finalized a lease with the University of Mary Washington Foundation to occupy an 18,000-square-foot space at the center that was formerly home to Frank’s Nursery & Crafts. The business expects to open in mid-July.

The Frank’s store closed in 2004. The UMW Foundation, which purchased the shopping center formerly known as Park & Shop in 2007, has used the space for storage. The foundation is now confident it has found another anchor tenant along with Giant and the under-development Hyatt Place hotel.

UMW Foundation CEO Jeff Rountree called the addition of Planet Fitness “a permanent game-changer for Eagle Village.” He expects the business to draw substantial traffic to the center. He also noted that several additional leases at Eagle Village are in the works.

Planet Fitness is a fast-growing, privately owned company that now has about 650 locations in 47 states. The company sponsors NBC’s popular “The Biggest Loser” television show.

Rather than catering to hard-core fitness enthusiasts, Planet Fitness markets itself as a low-cost and welcoming alternative for people who don’t have as much experience at gyms.

The company provides brand-name cardio and strength-training equipment, but doesn’t try to offer some of the additional frills that its competitors have. As a result, membership costs are significantly lower, either $10 or $19.99 per month.

The $10 rate includes unlimited use of all the gym’s exercise equipment, while the $19.99 rate allows members to use the facility’s tanning and massage beds, go to any other Planet Fitness club and bring a guest every visit.

Bill Asbell is managing member of the franchisee group that will own the Fredericksburg facility. This will be the fifth Planet Fitness location for the group, whose territory stretches from Blacksburg to Fredericksburg, and more are planned.

Asbell said his group has been interested in Fredericksburg for several years. It chose Eagle Village because of its close proximity to UMW and Mary Washington Hospital as well as a large population center. The space was also the right size, and Asbell said his group tries to find locations in grocery-anchored shopping centers.

Whether the group opens additional facilities in the local market will depend on how the Eagle Village location fares, Asbell said.

About 15 people will be hired to run the local gym, Asbell said, including three or four full-timers. The facility will be open and staffed 24 hours a day during the week and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

James Ashby IV and Virgil Nelson of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer worked on the lease for the UMW Foundation.