Equinox, Life Time, WeWork: Wellness Real Estate Is Redefining How We Live
Back in Issue No. 8 of the Fitt Insider newsletter, we hit on Life Time’s plan to expand beyond health clubs. As we pointed out, a 2017 rebrand saw the company drop “fitness” from its name. In 2018, the introduction of Life Time Work signaled a serious move into coworking. Now, with the announcement of Life Time Living—wellness-focused residential developments—their plan for the future is becoming more clear.
Founded in 1992 by CEO Bahram Akradi, Life Time is best known for high-end health clubs in affluent suburbs. But as the company sees it, they’re building a sprawling empire that “encompasses the entire spectrum of daily life.”
“Life Time Living presents a complete reimagination of where and how we live.”
— Bahram Akradi, Life Time CEO
Going well beyond a “gym”, the company already has a presence in food services (LifeCafe), personal care (LifeSpa), and coworking (Life Time Work). As one of the largest operators of swimming pools in the US, the company offers swim clubs, lessons, lap pools, and poolside hangouts through Life Time Swim. They’ve even managed to vertically integrate real estate development, construction, and architecture within the Life Time Construction division.
Under Akradi’s leadership, the Life Time empire has grown from a single location in Minnesota to a public offering in 2004, followed by a $4B acquisition by Leonard Green & Partners and TPG Capital in 2015 to take the company private. The numbers for 2019 are equally as impressive: Life Time has amassed 140+ health clubs with 1.7M members and sustained revenues that are expected to top $2B this year. But the plan for the future is even more ambitious.
In 2020, Life Time Living locations will begin popping up in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Miami. Constructed next to new or existing Life Time Fitness locations, these luxury apartments offer all the finer things in life — with an emphasis on convenience and well-being. On Life Time’s website, the headline reads: “It’s more than a home. It’s a lifestyle.” Of course, that lifestyle includes a membership to the onsite Life Time health club, plus access to the Life Time network of clubs in the US and Canada.
Looking further ahead, Akradi imagines a world where Fitness, Work, and Living unite to form a Life Time Village — a walkable, wellness-inspired community where convenience makes living a healthy lifestyle easier.
However, Life Time isn’t alone in its under-one-roof approach. In addition to operating nearly 100 fitness clubs around the world, Equinox is also moving beyond fitness. The company’s first boutique hotel is set to open this summer. Plus, the brand recently announced a nationwide partnership with Industrious to bring coworking to its clubs. Both initiatives will debut at Hudson Yards, a $20B real estate development from The Related Companies — the parent company of Equinox.
“Ninety percent of the members said if they could, they would stay in an Equinox hotel because they like the idea of the extension of their lifestyle into their travels.”
— Christopher Norton, Equinox Hotels CEO
In an ad campaign, Equinox once proclaimed, “It’s not fitness. It’s life.” Now, the company is doubling down on that statement by pushing beyond fitness centers to become a full-fledged lifestyle brand. As Christopher Norton, CEO of Equinox Hotels, told Skift, it’s a lifestyle built around being “healthy, fit, and strong.” As a result, the hotel embodies three pillars: movement, nutrition, and regeneration to create a “total and complete synergy” between fitness club and hotel stay.
As a promotional video for Equinox Hotel states, the company’s foray into hospitality is, “For those who want it all.” This sentiment will likely be carried over to its new coworking initiative (Fun fact: Katharine Lau, the senior director of real estate at Industrious, was previously the manager of development at Equinox). With additional hotels and coworking spaces set to open across the country, we’ll have to wait and see if Equinox apartments await.
Of course, there’s an obvious competitor in the space. WeWork—recently renamed The We Company—is the elephant in the live-work-play category. The company has raised $6.5B in funding, has been valued a $47B, and recently filed paperwork to go public.
The company’s vision for the future isn’t dissimilar from that of Life Time or Equinox. From WeWork offices to WeLive apartments and the Rise By We wellness concept, The We Company is emphatic that they sell “community”. Given a plan that’s ambitious as it is vague, skeptics have criticized the company’s business model and valuation. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying to vertically integrate our lives.
Whether its Life Time Village, Equinox Hotel, or The We Company, we’re willing to pay a premium for an elevated experience and convenience from a brand that just gets us. As we move connected equipment into our homes and move ourselves into homes built atop high-end health clubs, wellness has moved beyond how we eat or sweat to define how we live.