three story Ascend facility in downtown Erie downtown

The site of the former McDonald’s restaurant on the corner of State Street and West Fifth Street has been under construction since it was purchased by Erie Downtown Development Corp. in October 2019 full of activities.

First came the demolition equipment for leveling the old building. Within a few months, the EDDC had invested US $ 7,000 to create the temporary home of the Flagship City Curling League in the same location. More recently, the property has been used as a staging area for heavy equipment, while up to 200 construction workers are employed on EDDC construction projects in the surrounding neighborhood.

The EDDC has now announced an anchor tenant for the new four-story building planned there.

Pittsburgh-based Ascend Climbing has signed an agreement to locate a three-story, 26,000-square-foot climbing facility in the building, which is expected to be completed in the winter of 2022-2023.

This is an artist's impression of a new building to be built by the Erie Downtown Development Center on the corner of Fifth Street and State Street.  Pittsburgh-based Ascend has agreed to open a 26,000-square-foot climbing facility in the building.

Like other Ascend facilities in Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio, the Erie facility will offer “a mix of rope climbing, bouldering, exercise and group climbing walls, as well as cardiovascular equipment, weights, and yoga and fitness classes” at the EDDC.

The facility’s three-story climbing wall is expected to be visible from windows along Fifth Street.

The plan to bring Ascend to Erie began when Nicole Reitzell, vice president of community and impact at EDDC, discovered the Pittsburgh facility and reached out to the owners.

According to EDDC, we were impressed with their facility, operation, and eagerness to expand climbing, which is now an Olympic sport.

Ascends’ second location in Pennsylvania

Ascend, which began at the Pittsburgh site in 2017, had long hoped to open another facility in Pennsylvania, said Paul Guarino, a co-founder and owner of the company.

“Erie has always been on our radar,” he said. “Now that we’re working with EDDC, we couldn’t be more excited. We think it’s great for Erie and a great opportunity for us.”

Guarino said he’s excited about the size of the Erie facility – which will be larger than the existing gyms in Pittsburgh and Youngstown – and plans to have picture windows that will set it apart from darker, more traditional facilities.

“It’s bright, there’s a lot of light coming in,” he said. “It’s going to be like a giant billboard.”

Matt Wachter, EDDC vice president of finance and development, called Ascend a natural addition to the Flagship City Food Hall, Whole Foods Co-op, and new housing units under construction.

“Ascend’s commitment to Erie will bring a world-class fitness facility to an invigorating downtown core,” said Wachter. “Downtown Erie will be a vibrant community again.”

Contact Jim Martin at 814-870-1668 or Follow him on Twitter @ETNMartin.

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