From basher to booster: GoodLife on Stephen Avenue

By Mike Morrison May 2, 2014 Updated : May 2, 2014 | 9:55 am 

I would be a terrible undercover reporter.

Earlier this week, I had written about my regular column and was about to hand it to my editor, when I thought I should add a picture to strengthen my case.

My column was going to be about my dissatisfaction that the iconic Bank of Montreal building on Stephen Avenue would soon be the home to yet another GoodLife gym. While I was worried about further provoking the bike lane-weary Calgary Downtown Association, I was disappointed that such a beautiful and historic building would now be home to people who act like they’re too good to eat Big Macs.

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The column was done. It was ready to go. So, on Wednesday, I went down to the building to get a photo of its exterior. As I was taking photos, a man walked up and asked what I was taking photos of. I vaguely told him that I was writing about the building and he said, “Well, do you want to come in and see what it looks like?”

Without even meaning to, I had entered enemy territory.

As it turns out, the man I was talking to was Blair Higgs, the project foreman. He was that kind of nice that I’m just going to go ahead and assume that he’s from the Maritimes.

He brought me in through the side door and while the gym isn’t scheduled to open until September, the future home to countless treadmills is already a sight to see. The two-storey columns, the gold-plated ceiling, and stunning windows were breathtaking. He pointed out that the building would maintain many of the bank’s original features, like its steel doors.

I immediately felt guilty. Here was this very nice man who thought I was going to write a positive piece about a project he was very clearly passionate about. He was so kind-hearted that he never assumed otherwise. (It’s probably a trait we should all try to adopt.)

Regardless of my original intent, it was hard to ignore the beauty of the project that’s still months away from completion.

I coyly asked him more about fitness centre. I was curious why it took so long to find a tenant for the building, which had been empty since 2005 when a&b Sound closed its doors. He said it was because it’s hard to find a business that can take on such a huge space.

Then it struck me. I’d have to re-write this column. I was going about it all the wrong way.

Being cynically selfish, I was mad that the 80-year-old building was being turned into something that I will never use. But, just because there will never be a gym membership with my name on it, does that mean other people shouldn’t get to work out in what could be considered the nicest gym of all time?

At least it’s not being turned into a trashy bar or any other business that might have covered up the big windows or stunning ceiling. GoodLife is embracing the building’s elegance, which is all I could and should ask for.

I hope Higgs doesn’t get in trouble for showing me his site, because, even though he doesn’t even know it, I’m now going to be the project’s biggest supporter.