The Experience Economy and the Gentrifying Effect of Boutique Fitness

The landscape of residential homes are quickly adjusting to the upswing in boutique fitness studios. The rapid growth of fitness properties, such as Orangetheory, SoulCycle, and Rumble, to name a few, are beginning to attract a particular type of home buyer. Katherine Rosman of the New York Times describes the phenomena as boutique ‘fitness clusters’ emerging in suburban shopping developments and gentrifying city neighborhoods.

New development on H Street brings a choice of boutique studios.

There is a growing consumer class more interested in living close to holistic health oriented venues opposed to retail shopping. The typical brick-and-mortar retail store has seen significant competition from the high demand hot yoga, pilates, boxing, and cycling studios. Jamie, a senior at American University, explains, “I can order my groceries online and have them delivered by Whole Foods. I would rather live in an area where I can walk or take a short Metro ride to my yoga studio.” 

Jamie is not alone in her mindset. The expansion of fitness clusters is seen in a variety of DC neighborhoods becoming anchors to new developments, including healthy restaurant concepts like HipCityVeg and Sweetgreens. And for this reason, real estate agents see an uptick in requests for condos and townhouses located in these neighborhoods. 

Although millennials and Gen Zs may seem to be the target market of farm-to-table-vegan-fitness driven neighborhoods, there are plenty of Gen X-Ys craving the minimalist lifestyle. Downsizing, both in square feet and distance, are becoming a must-have amenity when searching for properties with their real estate agent. Broker John Bratton has been working with DC buyers and sellers for the past twenty years. “It is amazing the shift in demand for certain neighborhoods based on boutique type services.”

Brokers are adjusting their marketing techniques reflecting demands from clients wanting to take advantage of new studio construction and pre-boutique pricing vs. traditional requirements for high ceilings and walk-in closets. 

And who can blame them for wanting the MALL walking experience, a movement started back in the early 1960’s. David Bouchier’s 1999 article,  OUT OF ORDER; At the Mall, Walking and Wondering Why, points out that physicians figured out that the only way to persuade people to exercise was to combine it with shopping. Now that shopping has gone online and consumers are relying on developers to build exercise opportunities within walking distance of their homes. 

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR) these new fitness studios now make up a big part of what’s been called the “experiential economy.” HBR explains that experience occurs -when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. Today, the concept of selling experiences is spreading beyond movie theaters and sporting events, but to the boutique offerings that provide both tangible services (cycling, yoga, etc.) and an experience (a high-paced music driven motivational workout).

As the experience economy unfolds, so will the desire for homebuyers to require proximity to their favorite boutique studio. Proximity is a must-have and homebuyers are willing to pay. The developers are listening and building new properties throughout the city, such at the Wharf, Capital Crossing, Eastern Market, Mount Vernon, and Capitol Hill. And don’t worry, your favorite boutique studio is right around the corner. 

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