The fate of 12th Street Gym remained unclear this week as lease negotiations were ongoing with new owners of the building.
Located at 202-204 S. 12th St., the gym has been a well-known presence in the Gayborhood for three decades. Advocates say thousands of LGBT people use the facility to stay fit and healthy. But last month, New York-based developer Midwood Management Corp. purchased the building that houses the gym and 25 other tenants.
This week, gym co-owner Frank Baer said efforts were underway to establish a long-term lease with Midwood.
“These negotiations are very important to us,” Baer told PGN. “They’ll determine the future of the gym. We’re keeping all interested parties informed. As soon as we get more information, they’ll be notified.”
Baer said a sharp increase in property taxes — along with the imposition of code upgrades by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections — have taken a toll on the gym’s financial situation.
“We’re doing the best we can to have the gym continue for as long as it can and still be economically viable,” Baer said.
A post on the gym’s Facebook page states: “All membership contracts will be honored and we appreciate your patience during this process. We expect to have more specifics for you in the coming weeks.”
A spokesperson for Midwood Management Corp. couldn’t be reached for comment.
Casarez mural a source of concern
An exterior wall of the building housing the gym displays a mural of Gloria Casarez, a local LGBT icon.
Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia, said the mural cannot be transferred to another location for reinstallation. She said the mural was painted onto parachute cloth that’s firmly adhered to the wall.
“The parachute cloth is adhered to the wall with acrylic gel. It almost becomes part of the wall itself,” Golden explained.
If changes to the building require that the mural come down, Golden promised that an alternate mural in honor of Casarez would be painted elsewhere in the city.
“The mural to Gloria is so important to us — and to so many stakeholders and citizens — that we would be on a mission to redo this mural somewhere else,” she said. “We’re committed to that.”
Gym members concerned about its long-term status
Richard N. Gliniak, a gym member since April 1997, expressed hope that the facility won’t close and the mural will be preserved.
“12th Street Gym must be saved,” Gliniak told PGN. “It’s much more than a gym. It’s a central part of the LGBT community; a gathering place for diverse people. A lot of my socializing occurs there. I don’t go to bars. This is where I go.”
In October 2015, Gliniak attended the dedication of the Casarez mural and said he’d be “extremely upset” if it were taken down.
“It would be a desecration to destroy that beautiful piece of art.” Gliniak continued.
“The community needs to come together and force the issue. City officials need to step forward and do everything they can to make sure the gym doesn’t close.”
He said emotions ran high at the gym after news of its possible closure.
“It’s really quite sad,” Gliniak added. “I was at the gym on Tuesday and everyone was hugging each other, exchanging phone numbers in case the next day it closes. It was very emotional. People are upset.”