A visit to the former Value City Department Store building will soon offer both spiritual and physical enrichment.
The building purchased in 2009 by the Altoona Alliance Church will also be home to a fitness center and several other ministries, Pastor Tim McGarvey said.
The church recently sold about 20,000 square feet of the 72,000-square-foot building to Lancaster businessman Art Thomas who plans to open a Planet Fitness franchise in the southern end of the building at 3220 Pleasant Valley Blvd.
"A portion of the building did not fit into our plans so we started looking at leasing," McGarvey said. "We found it would be best to wall off part of the building and sell a portion of it."
Planet Fitness, which hopes to open in mid-July, is a good fit for the building.
"We wanted to be helpful and give back to the community; they have been so supportive of our church since the fire," McGarvey said. "We believe in a way a fitness center fits into that plan as a way to give back to the community."
Thomas, who owns franchise rights in five Pennsylvania counties - including Blair, Cambria and Centre - and five counties in New Jersey, is excited about bringing Planet Fitness to Altoona.
"I talked to various franchise owners before deciding to go with Planet Fitness. The excitement in the voices of the owners, you couldn't disguise," said Thomas, president and CEO of Altoona Planet Fitness LLC. "We will have plenty of free weights and machines. You will see tons of cardio equipment and a lot of work stations. We want people to get in shape and feel comfortable. We want to create an atmosphere they will enjoy going to."
It is not unusual for a church and fitness center to share the same building. Thomas said.
"I think it is a good mix - you can go to church and come over and work out," Thomas said. "We will do what we can to beautify that property with landscaping and new paving."
Meanwhile, McGarvey said the church has made several moves to hold its services since the May 6, 2007, destroyed the church at 17th Street and McMahon Road.
The Alliance Church will also be home to several other ministries.
Precious Life is using some space for storage.
The Arrow Project, a nonprofit Christian foster care agency, will use some space, and plans are in the works for a preschool to use some of the Sunday school rooms. There may also be a counseling ministry using some of the space, McGarvey said.
"We look at it like it is a wagon wheel, with the church as the hub. The spokes are the various ministries going out to help the community,"McGarvey said. "When we bought the building, it was huge. It is too big for our church, but it is not too big for God."
McGarvey said he hopes worship services in the building will begin this summer.
"If all goes well, we are targeting a mid-August move-in date," McGarvey said.
Even though the church has sold a portion of its building, plenty of room remains for future expansion as the church will only be using about 28,000 square feet when it opens.
The second phase of the church's three-phase project calls for using a middle section between the church and fitness center for additional Sunday school rooms and a cafe.
The third phase, which may be several years down the road, would include building a bigger sanctuary and adding a fellowship hall.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.