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Cooper Hall in Saxonburg to become gym

Cooper Hall in Saxonburg has been rented to a local business. The last borough event there will be a polling place Nov. 8. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle
Building to serve as polling place Nov. 8 before change

The conundrum faced by the borough in renting out Cooper Hall, behind the Saxonburg Museum, has been solved, as a local business owner has signed a five-year lease.

Mary Papik, borough manager, confirmed on Tuesday that the borough council in September approved a lease of the 6,000-square-foot space to Body Genesis.

The fitness facility is now in a building on West Main Street in Saxonburg and will move to Cooper Hall at the end of December or beginning of January.

Papik said council members have been in discussions with Jonathan Johnson, Body Genesis owner, for five or six months.

To provide the upgrades and maintenance required at all facilities and grounds in Roebling Park, where Cooper Hall is located, council members had to raise prices significantly for the hall rental following the pandemic.

The number of rentals decreased following the price increase.

“Trying to run it as a venue for rentals is costly, from an employee standpoint, and it’s expensive to maintain the building and pay the utilities if we don’t have rentals,” Papik said. “This gave us a steady source of revenue.”

She said the space will be leased for $2,000 per month plus utilities.

“Three to four years ago (monthly rental income) would have been the same,” Papik said, “but with the pandemic, (the lease amount) is about double.”

The borough will not be required to complete any upgrades or renovations in the contract, Papik said.

The last event at Cooper Hall will be the 2022 general election on Nov. 8, as the borough’s polling place was moved from the borough building to the larger Cooper Hall several years ago.

“I already talked to the county and said they can come back to the borough building if they want to,” Papik said.

Parking for the fitness center will be on the south side of the property on the concrete pads meant for campers.

The lease will be a boon to the borough, as the Roebling Park gazebo needs a new roof, the historic John A. Roebling Wire Rope Shop is in a significant state of disrepair, and the park is in need of drainage, Papik said.

“The revenue realized will be used to offset park expenses,” she said.

Johnson said on Tuesday that he is looking forward to moving to Cooper Hall since the former Dollar General building, where he has been for four years, is becoming insufficient.

“It helps the borough and it helps us,” Johnson said.

He said the borough reached out to him after hearing he was looking for a larger building to rent.

The new venue will allow Johnson to add fitness boxing, group fitness classes and high-intensity interval training to his selection of fitness equipment.

“The size is definitely an improvement,” he said.

He said he will add mirrors, a changing room and other fitness-related features in the building, as well as exterior landscaping.

“Where we are now, there are not a lot of options,” Johnson said. “It’s nice being near the park because people can not only work out, but use the park more.”

Johnson has two options to renew his lease for five more years once the new contract expires, Papik said.

In addition to Saxonburg, Body Genesis has locations in Shenango Township in Lawrence County, as well as North Apollo in Armstrong County.

Cooper Hall in Saxonburg borough will be leased be a local business owner. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle
Cooper Hall in Saxonburg borough will be leased be a local business owner. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle

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