The Washington Post

Developer: If you build a gym east of the river, we will pay your yoga tax


Shamika Bradley, 35, left and Delisha Jones, 35, work out in a Zumba class this month at Fort Stanton Recreation Center in Southease Washington. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

After the D.C. Council voted 9-4 in favor of the highly contested  “yoga tax,” a nonprofit community developer in Anacostia issued a different type of fitness challenge.

Here was the announcement, via Twitter:

Duane Gautier, president of the Arch Development Corporation, told The Washington Post that his organization has been trying for years to get a health club in the area. Arch has had some success building a creative hub in Ward 8, creating two art galleries, subsidizing rents for artists and creating a co-working space for small business. But there are no full-service, commercial gyms in the ward, and his group has been unable to corral any.

“They didn’t believe people here would actually come and use a gym if they built it,”  Gautier said of his negotiations. “There’s this negative perception about Anacostia that is far  from reality. As a result, they always come up with phony reasons.”

Gautier said he read another “phony reason” in an article in Tuesday’s Post. In the piece, a coalition of gym operators said that if the 5.75 percent sales tax was passed they might be dissuaded from starting new gyms in areas where there are none, including Anacostia. Gautier, who supports the tax, said his organization decided they needed to act quickly before the so-called yoga tax became another excuse not to come to the neighborhood.

“If this yoga tax is the reason, we’ll make the investment and pay the tax for every member at a health studio [in Ward 8] for the first year,” Gautier said. “We are serious. We will sign on the dotted line.”

He hopes the plan works. Some 44 percent of people in his ward are obese, according to a city needs assessment, and almost one in three showed that they had engaged in no physical activity in the past month.

 

 

 

Robert Samuels is a national political reporter who focuses on the intersection of politics, policy and people. He previously covered social issues in the District of Columbia.

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