From Legislating to Leg Day

After opening a gym in Scott’s Addition, Richmond City Councilman Andreas Addison wants to streamline the permitting process.

Long before Andreas Addison became the beefcake of Richmond’s City Council, he was a mere bean pole. Cross country and swimming throughout high school had made him fit, but at 6’1” and 130 pounds, Addison was far from a lifting legend. Once he got a work study job at Virginia Tech’s gym, his passion for physical fitness morphed from a love of laps to deadlifts.

“In my senior year, I found the weight room and the meal plan,” Addison recalls. “I eventually built my life around a healthy routine and created a sense of community and some lifelong friends out of that. When you graduate into adult life and have a full-time job, maintaining that becomes harder.”

In the two decades since Addison’s college career, his dedication to the gym has ebbed and flowed. As a city council member, adjunct professor, and now entrepreneur, his work schedule rarely allows him two hours to visit a typical gym and wait in line for crowded machinery. Addison’s passion for boutique gyms and the sense of community they create comes from his friend John, who opened the gym Addison now owns, and encouraged him to get back into fitness after his divorce.

“I turned 40 in April,” says Addison. “That really made me reflect on the sustainability and longevity of my fitness. I can feel the effects of aging now, and the only way to combat that is to have fitness as part of my daily schedule. With this gym, I want to create a safe space for other people to feel motivated to work out in.”

Pure Fitness in Scott’s Addition had its soft opening in June and has gradually grown its client list from 25 to 42 active members. With winter weather just over the horizon and folks’ ability to comfortably work out outside steadily dwindling, Addison is hopeful his gym will reach its goal of 100 members in the coming months.

The gym offers members 50-minute workout classes Monday through Friday four times per day. Those looking to get their pump in early can come to the 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. sessions. For folks who prefer to burn calories during their lunch break there is also a session at noon. Lastly, people who would rather get their pump in post-work can attend the 5:30 session.

“We’re about dynamic workouts that are designed to challenge you every day in ways you wouldn’t normally push yourself,” Addison says. “We’re not going to do anything explosive without it being in a controlled manner. We’re about performance longevity so we want to avoid injuries and give you time to do your reps, and that opportunity is going to show you a lot more results.”

Pure Fitness’ 5,000-square-foot space contains medicine balls for wall exercises, pull up bars, plate weights, kettlebells, bands, rings for body weight push ups, boxes for jumping, benches, rowing machines, weight racks, air bikes, and 1,000 square feet set aside for sprints. Once clients are done with all of those things they get a lavender scented towel, can take a shower, and get back to their day.

Their team of coaches are trained to assist clients at any level of fitness and accommodate injuries or weaknesses. The goal is to boost cardiovascular health and build strength all without ever having to wait on a machine.

Addison had once hoped to include a juice bar as part of his gym, but that dream died in the city’s permitting process. To make Pure Fitness a reality, he faced a series of denied permits, planning approvals, business license applications, mandatory parking minimums, public right of way approvals, and inspections of all sorts. If you thought being a Richmond city council member would earn Addison special treatment, think again.

“I learned early on that council has no control over this process — it’s an administrative priority,” he explains. “I burned through a year’s worth of free rent waiting to get approval to put in bathrooms and a wheelchair ramp. That should not take nine months. That should take two to three. I lost so much potential time to operate and grow my business for nothing.”

The entire endeavor left Addison with a strong desire to streamline such processes for Richmonders who want to start a business.

“City officials need to meet people where they are at so that we can all win,” he says. “From riding the bus to opening a business, it’s important for us elected officials to take the time to live the experiences that everyone else is complaining about. If you want to understand why permitting is a tough process, try to build something.”


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