Tired: Broad Street. Wired: Schuylkill Banks?
In early 2019, the rising tower overlooking the river at 2400 Market St. will become home to Fitler Club. Billed as a first-of-its-kind lifestyle club “for Philadelphia’s growing community of business, creative and social leaders,” the new venue is kind of like what you’d get if you cross the Union League with the Sporting Club at the Bellevue.
But instead of fusty old buildings with antiquated regulations — the Union League famously has a ban on jeans, and its bar apparently has certain tables where women aren’t allowed — on one of the city’s earliest boulevards, the newcomer will offer members a sleek modern feel plus family-friendly convenience on a waterfront locale that’s smack in the middle of the city’s most vibrant new construction zones (see Comcast II, Schuylkill Yards, etc.).
To make Fitler Club really on trend, the project, which is being spearheaded by hospitality veteran and former Equinox CIO David Gutstadt, also has a philanthropic component.
That’s largely thanks to NBA star David Robinson, whose Admiral Capital Group is one of the main investors.
By mandate of the former San Antonio Spurs center — “My mother instilled it in me when I started in the league,” he said during a hard hat tour of the space Thursday — everything his VC firm invests in must return 10 percent of its profits back to the local communities where it’s active.
The community return could come in the form of hosting neighborhood meetings, gatherings or fundraisers for local nonprofits in the club’s 10,000 square feet of event space, which will include a ballroom, conference rooms, bowling alleys, a private garden and the city’s first private indoor movie theater. (The building was previously known as the Marketplace Design Center — it’s the one with the whale mural — and upper floors will house Aramark’s new headquarters.)
Fitler Club’s gym will have a 75-foot lap pool, a spinning studio, a yoga studio, a spa and a supervised playroom for kids.
There’s also a second-floor restaurant, bar and lounge area with a large outdoor patio that stretches over the river — and some familiar names attached.
Kevin Sbraga, whose previous landlord at the Symphony House, Carl Dranoff, is Gutstadt’s father-in-law, will oversee Fitler Club’s culinary department. Jeff Benjamin, founding partner of Vetri Cucina, will be in charge of operations.
During the hard hat tour, which included a VR preview of the restaurant area, Sbraga served a roasted carrot lavash with rose petal relish and harissa. “I’m going to be doing lighter food than what I’ve been known to do,” the former Fat Ham chef said.
Sbraga also noted the uniqueness of the club: “When I first saw the project I didn’t quite understand it, because there’s nothing quite like it.”
Envisioned as a “home away from home” for members, plans for the club also call for coworking space and private office suites, and several high-end hotel accommodations members can stay in themselves or use to host guests or business associates visiting from out of town.
The cost to join is right around the same as the Union League, per one of the people involved (which stands around $5,000 a year, plus a monthly minimum spent on “house charges”), but Fitler Club is not looking to graft members from that 150-year-old establishment.
“If you’re not looking to join a club, I’m not going to try to convince you. But if you are, there’s nothing quite like this one,” said Benjamin. “We’re going to be family-friendly and friendly to women and people of all races.”
So far, he said, the gambit seems to be working — people who have expressed interest in joining have come from a diverse array of backgrounds and sectors.
“Sure, all the investors [in Admiral Capital] are rich,” Robinson told Billy Penn. “But I like to think people who invest in our fund want something good to come from their money. There’s plenty of things they could do with it. They don’t have to give it to us.
“I think that’s the same for the people who’ll be members in this club. They want to give back.”