Gym ushers in new life for former school

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Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ron Pugliese, left, talks with The Club Health & Fitness owner Joe Gworek at the gym at 100 Prospect St. in Naugatuck on July 3. The gym, which opened on July 5, is the first business to open at the former Prospect Street School. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The first tenant of the former Prospect Street Elementary School wants to bring back the feeling of recess.

The Club Health & Fitness opened its doors to the public at its new location at 100 Prospect St. on Wednesday.

“We want to create that fun atmosphere and bring it back to almost like you are a kid in elementary school going out for recess. Think about when you went out for recess as a kid. That was the best hour of the day. We want to make it fun again to work out and get in shape,” said Joe Gworek, owner of The Club.

The gym is the first business to open up in the building since the borough sold the roughly 41,000-square-foot former school to Mat Florian, owner of Florian Properties in Southington, last year for $300,000.

Along with the gym, the plan for the building calls for commercial spaces on the first floor and up to 18 residential apartments on the second floor. Renovations and site improvements have been underway since Florian bought the building.

Florian couldn’t be reached for comment.

Gworek said he relocated his business because he needed more space. The gym’s previous location at 727 Rubber Ave. was 7,000 square feet, he said.

“I was there for 12 years. It was great but I wanted to do something more training based,” Gworek said. “We didn’t have the room to make that happen, to grow, and be better.”

The Club takes up about 15,000 square feet of the building on Prospect Street. Along with more than doubling his space, Gworek said there is room to expand in the future.

“That’s really what we’d love to do, to get to the point where there are so many people coming in here that we can expand even further,” Gworek said.

The school gym serves as the main floor for The Club, and the former cafeteria was turned into an area for group and personal training. An 800-square-foot mezzanine, which overlooks the main floor, is where people will find cardio equipment.

Gworek isn’t the only business that is going to call the building home.

Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Centers, currently located at 1183 New Haven Road, is expecting to move into the building in September.

Gworek said having a physical therapist in the same building would be beneficial for the gym, the physical therapist, and customers.

“We already have a good relationship, so we are going to be working hand in hand,” Gworek said.

Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ron Pugliese said he was happy to see the transformation of the former school, which the borough closed in 2012.

“I’m absolutely thrilled we have this development coming to completion,” Pugliese said. “The developers have done an amazing job. They have totally transformed it.”

Pugliese pointed to the project as an example of what Naugatuck officials are trying to accomplish throughout the borough.

“This is what we have been attempting to do for a variety of projects to make additions to the grand list and lower taxes for citizens,” Pugliese said.