ITHACA, N.Y. — For those looking for an alternative to Ithaca’s existing gym options, here’s a new choice to consider — Orangetheory Fitness, a Florida-based fitness studio franchise, is looking to set up shop on South Meadow Street.

The chain has been in a rapid expansion mode since the first gym opened its doors in 2010. It currently boasts over 1,300 locations across all 50 states and in 23 countries, with more than a hundred new outlets opening in the past year alone.

The local franchise will be led by fitness entrepreneur Vanessa Fuleihan. Fuleihan, born and raised in the Syracuse area, launched the first central New York Orangetheory Fitness three years ago, after purchasing the regional franchise rights with her sister (an accountant) and their father (a cardiologist). With three locations already in operation, the Ithaca gym is their first expansion outside of the Syracuse metropolitan area.

“Ithaca is a college town. It’s similar to our SU (Syracuse University) location, so we decided to go after the Ithaca territory since it was open. We’re happy that we did,” said Fuleihan.

The location is planned for 614 South Meadow Street, in a 6,380 SF space at the Tops Plaza between HomeGoods and Barnes & Noble. Previously, the retail frontage hosted a Hallmark store, but the location has been closed and the storefront vacant for a few years. The renovation, by VIP Structures of Syracuse, will cost about $300,000, according to the city building permit filing.

Now, as anyone who’s been around Ithaca knows, South Meadow Street isn’t the student corridor. The students stay up on their respective hills most of the time, occasionally wandering into Collegetown (in the case of Cornell) or Downtown (in the case of Ithaca College). Unless they have a specific shopping trip in mind, Southwest Ithaca generally isn’t a place they go out of the way to visit.

Fuleihan said that was fine. In fact, that was kinda the point of choosing the space they did. “We wanted a neutral location. We want to be in a college town, but we know there’s a whole community of locals as well as students, we want to be able to capture the attention of both and pull in people from all walks of life. That location seemed like a good middle ground.”

To be fair, whether students, permanent residents or otherwise, one supposes that if there are certain businesses more resilient to the retail apocalypse, a fitness studio is one of them, given enough health-conscious individuals.

So, what is Orangetheory exactly? Well, those who go the gym vary from those who make their own plans, to those who like defined classes and routines by those who know what they’re doing. Orangetheory is one of the latter. The Wall Street Journal says “Orangetheory is a boutique fitness studio where the workouts combine rowing, interval training on treadmills and resistance training with TRX straps, small free weights and a person’s own body weight.” The underlying theory is to utilize an exercise that relies on a combination of strength, endurance and power to create an “Orange effect” where patrons keep burning calories for up to 36 hours after a one-hour workout.

“The most unique thing is that it is heart-rate monitor based. We track the heart rate in real-time in class. All the coaches are certified personal trainers to make sure you don’t undertrain or overtrain based on your heart rate. All your results are emailed to you and they show up on the Orangetheory Fitness app. You can see your personal growth through tracking your heart rate,” said Fuleihan.

Fuleihan expects the Ithaca location to employ about fifteen staff – a studio manager, a head coach for training, staff coaches and sales representatives.

“We truly are for all levels. I was a D-1 tennis athlete, but not everyone can walk into a fitness gym and feel comfortable taking it on. With Orangetheory, you can take an athlete, or someone who hasn’t worked out in years, or someone who is pregnant and wants to stay healthy, and they can do a workout. Our workouts are written by the corporate office, they’re scientifically backed and the workouts are written months in advance. It creates a unique environment in the studio because you have people in the studio from all walks of life and all goals,” Fuleihan added.

Asked about a potential opening date, Fuleihan said that they didn’t have an exact date in place yet, but are aiming for a spring opening. As many gyms do, they are signing up early bird clients at a reduced-price membership, though she added that membership is month-to-month. For the curious, the contact page is here.

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at