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Maximus Health & Fitness is expected to open within the next couple of weeks in the former Woolworth building on East Main Street. Pictured is the 25,000-square-foot main exercise room. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOThe 25,000 square foot gym's main exercise room.

Last Monday afternoon, Phil Durinick, co-owner of Maximus Health & Fitness on East Main Street, chatted amiably with a woman standing near the gym’s rear entrance as she marveled at the space inside.

She had been walking downtown when she noticed the construction taking place there and wanted to stop in to check it out, she said. In response, Mr. Durinick pointed to the nearby counter where Long Island’s first oxygen bar will soon serve flavored oxygen to the fitness center’s customers. 

Mr. Durinick, who also works in the swimming pool industry, said she wasn’t the first person to ask about Maximus, which is slated to open in about two weeks. And he hopes she isn’t the last.

It’s no wonder the fitness center is drawing so much attention: Woolworth went out of business in 1997, and the long-vacant building that will soon house Maximus Health & Fitness was purchased for about $4 million in 2006 by Apollo Real Estate Advisors, a Manhattan-based investment group. When Apollo’s proposed $500 million revitalization for almost all of downtown later fell apart, Sag Harbor resident Michael Butler purchased the property last year.

The former Woolworth building has been the subject of countless downtown revitalization plans over the years. Everything from a movie theater, to a supermarket, to a culinary school have been floated as possible solutions to the long-vacant building, and all have failed to materialize.

But after decades of inaction, Maximus Health & Fitness is set to finally break that streak.

It took a lot of work, Mr. Durinick said. The building’s interior needed new ceilings, floors, lights, plumbing and electrical work. The metal beams supporting the now-empty second floor were encased with wooden molding to mask their appearance.

“Whatever you see in here is new,” he said. “It’s a neat look.”

The result of seven months of construction is much more than a gym, Mr. Durinick said. The space includes three tanning rooms, a space for aerobic exercise, a sauna in the men’s and women’s locker rooms, a child care area, and an electric fireplace near a warm-up area.

“It gives you a little bit of ambiance,” he said. 

Maximus Health & Fitness owners Frank Distefano (from left) and Phil Durinck look on as personal trainer Greg Trent tries out one of the new LifeCycle GX spin bikes. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
Maximus Health & Fitness owners Frank Distefano (from left) and Phil Durinck look on as personal trainer Greg Trent tries out one of the new LifeCycle GX spin bikes. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Near the main entrance, the owners have built an all-natural smoothie bar. They’re still waiting on the permits to get it up and running.

There’s even a barbershop next to the spinning room.

The new 25,000-square-foot center is two-and-a-half times larger than the gym’s old space on Route 58 and has 55 treadmills, 30 elliptical machines, three wave machines and dozens of stationary bikes. Workers are moving equipment each day to finish up construction.

“We’re working in here 24/7,” Mr. Durinick said. To emphasize that point, he noted that an employee who had worked through the night was napping in the office.

A Patchogue native, Mr. Durinick has seen what happens when a downtown area turns around.

“I can see it happening here,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe it could happen.”

The gym is just the beginning for the old Woolworth building.

“We’re going to be starting the major residential work over the next few months,” said Mr. Butler, the managing partner of the company renovating the site. The building will feature 19 apartment units on the 15,000-square-foot second floor.

The interior of the building has already had new electrical wiring, plumbing, water lines and sprinklers installed.

Work on nearby Goldberg’s Famous Bagels is also expected to be completed by the middle of the month he said, and 3,000 square feet of commercial space is still available for lease. Scaffolding around the outside of the building was taken down this week and laborers will begin decorating the fascia that runs along the front of the building. The fascia itself should be finished in another week or two.

Mr. Butler said workers have taken care to incorporate details from the Woolworth’s building’s history, like using the original metalwork around the front doors.

“This is a historic building, so we’re trying to make it look like it was in the 1950s,” he said.

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