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Fitness chain drops plan to open at former Target

The Target store on Henry Street in Commack,

The Target store on Henry Street in Commack, seen on Wednesday, closed in 2019. Credit: James Carbone

A national fitness chain has dropped plans for a $35 million location at the former site of a Commack Target.

"While we like the market, we are not moving forward at this time," said Life Time Fitness spokeswoman Natalie Bushaw in an email.

She did not give a reason for the decision, but John Baker, vice president for construction and development for PJ Venture, owner of the Commack South Shopping Center where the site is located, said the pandemic was to blame. "Due to the COVID virus and lockdown, they weren't going to invest the funds in this facility to outfit the building for their use and not be able to use it," he said. "They decided to let the lease option expire."

The Target that formerly occupied the location closed in 2019. A floor plan PJ Venture filed with the Smithtown Planning Department earlier this year had called for a 144,000-square-foot resort-style fitness center with pools, a restaurant and spaces for yoga, massage, weightlifting and children’s play.

"Lifetime was one of a small number of companies that had major expansions like this planned pre-crisis," though the industry was healthy before the pandemic struck, said Meredith Poppler, a spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, said in emails.

Data provided by Poppler show an industry now in free fall, with a quarter of clubs projected to close and 1.6 million job losses expected by the end of the year. Multiple chains are filing for bankruptcy, and billions of dollars in revenue has been lost.

"While other small businesses were able to pivot and sell online or do takeout orders, health clubs had no real opportunities to earn revenue," Poppler wrote. "Some clubs have successfully pivoted to make money with outdoor workouts and virtual classes, but these are no way near enough to cover the difference."

She added: "It will take a while before revenues are up to a point where major construction projects are ready to commence."

Life Time has more than 145 "athletic resort destinations" across the United States, including facilities in Syosset and Garden City, according to the company website. Memberships at the Long Island facilities start at $179 per month.

PJ Venture will divide its Commack site into two spaces for flooring chain Floor & Decor and another tenant to be determined. Floor & Decor could be open by this time next year, Baker said. A spokeswoman for the chain declined to comment.

A PJ Venture plan to link the Commack South Shopping Center to a sewage treatment plant servicing the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge, initiated partly to accommodate Life Time, is still moving forward, said Baker and Smithtown Town environmental planner Allyson Murray.

Commercial applications to the Smithtown Planning Department are down from last year, Murray said, but several large projects are ongoing. They include a BJ’s Wholesale Club planned for Commack and the Preserve at Smithtown, a 55-and-older apartment complex planned for Nesconset.

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