The area near R Street and Olive Avenue will be buzzing with activity this week and in the coming months as crews fill some empty space.
A crew has begun refurbishing the former Circuit City building for the In-Shape Fit taking the space, Panera Bread opens its doors today and a building owner will do some shuffling to make room for a Harbor Freight Tools.
Stockton-based In-Shape Health Clubs will move in about six months into the long-empty building at 3275 R St., which housed Circuit City until it closed in November 2008.
In-Shape spokeswoman Michelle Clark said the move will more than double the size of Merced’s third and newest location in town. The company will move from the former Brenda Athletics Club on Highway 59, which it acquired in November, to the 18,000-square-foot building on R Street.
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“We’re going to completely overhaul the Circuit City space,” Clark said. “It will be beautiful.”
Clark said the company will put about $1 million toward upgrading the building. That mirrors the amount of money that went into Yosemite Avenue’s In-Shape club, she said.
Clark said the company has no plans to hire new employees before opening.
The new club, dubbed In-Shape Fit, will be unlike the four other fitness clubs in Merced County, Clark said. The gym will have a circuit training section, on-demand fitness classes that use video rather than trainers, and a larger-than-usual offering of machines that target cardiovascular training, among other amenities. “This one is designed to be an easy, nonintimidating space,” she said.
Other than the three In-Shape locations in Merced, there is a location in Atwater and one in Los Banos.
There are 70 In-Shape locations in the state, and In-Shape announced last month it would begin hiring 500 new trainers. Before that, personal training sessions were offered by a third-party company.
In-Shape isn’t the only business to announce this week that it’s moving into the West Olive Avenue area of Merced. A few shops across Olive Avenue will shuffle around to make room for Harbor Freight Tools, according to building owner Dion Campisi.
He said Harbor Freight, which sells industrial tools and supplies, will fill a 12,198-square-foot building that once housed a Rent-A-Center at 1330 Olivewood Drive. “I think it’s a good fit for us and for the tenant,” he said.
Campisi said he expects the store to open and hire employees by May.
Area experts and officials have been saying that the economy in Merced is on its way up, though it will happen slowly. Olive Avenue and the R Street corridor from Olive Avenue to Loughborough Drive are in the heart of Merced’s commercial center, said Frank Quintero, director of economic development for the city of Merced.
Filling empty space is an important part of having vibrant commercial and shopping centers, he said.
The ex-Orchard Supply Hardware building, also on R Street, has remained empty since the the store closed last fall. Quintero said the building has drawn some interest for office, retail or other space but still no takers.
While tool and fitness enthusiasts will have to wait months for Harbor Freight and In-Shape Fit to open their doors, a couple of eateries will be in Merced sooner.
Cafe-style eatery Panera Bread is set to open its 4,200-square-foot building on R Street on today. The location has a drive-thru, which for Panera is not common in California, according to senior regional marketing manager Stephanie Wren.
A couple of doors down from Panera will be a Chipotle Mexican Grill. The 2,000-square-foot space has a tentative opening date of March 6, according to spokeswoman Danielle Winslow.
The eateries will share the space that was home to Blockbuster Video until early 2013.