Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Yoga strengthens downtown

Country's biggest centre in the works

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The owners of the Fort Garry Hotel are hoping to add more fuel to the downtown revival effort with the pending opening of Canada's largest yoga centre in a vacant building on Fort Street.

Ida Albo and Rick Bel are converting the main floor and lower levels of the former Carleton Club at 280 Fort St. into Yoga Public, a 20,000-square-foot yoga centre. Albo said when it opens in December, the centre will be the largest in Canada and one of the best in North America.

She said the studio has been in the planning stages for more than two years, and she and yoga director Samantha Chisick visited some of the top studios on the continent to get ideas.

"We did a lot of research because we wanted to deliver something that is different, better and special," she said at the 2 1/2-storey facility, which is undergoing extensive renovations.

In addition to four separate studios and more than 100 classes a week in all forms of yoga, Yoga Public will boast a TRX training centre offering the same kind of suspension training U.S. navy SEALs and professional athletes use to tighten their core, strengthen and lengthen their muscles and increase flexibility.

Albo said it will be the first TRX training centre in Canada and only the second in North America. The plan is to market it to professional athletes and sports teams both here and outside Manitoba.

They said they hope to help establish Winnipeg as a North American hot spot for yoga and TRX training and also contribute to downtown revitalization.

"Rick and I have been committed to the downtown for almost 30 years," Albo said. "If this encourages more people to work and live downtown, great!"

Bel and Albo are no strangers to yoga or spa concepts. They already operate the successful co-ed Ten Spa on the top floor of their hotel, and Albo is a certified yoga instructor.

Albo said their research showed demand for yoga classes has been growing at a double-digit pace for the past eight years in Canada, and there's no reason to think it's any different in Winnipeg.

Bel said they're spending $2.5 million to build the yoga centre, install a glass facade on the building and build an 18-stall parking lot on a property they acquired next door to the club. A pool hall that used to be on the site was demolished to make way for the parking lot, which Bel said their lender required as part of their financing.

He said the 37,000-square-foot building, which they acquired in early 2008, is being divided into three areas. The yoga centre will occupy the lower level and the back two-thirds of the main floor; another 3,000-square-foot commercial unit will occupy the front third of the main floor and the top two levels will be developed as a third unit.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 20, 2011 B4

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Updated on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 10:32 AM CDT: tweaks "21/2"

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