Members of a now-closed Detroit fitness center gathered outside the building one last time Friday afternoon to say farewell and reminisce about a place that, for them, was as much about building friendships as working out.

Two days earlier, Henry Ford Health System made a surprise announcement that it would permanently close the center, FitnessWorks, 6525 2nd Ave. in the city’s New Center, because the hospital system owns the building and needs the fitness center’s space to expand its patient physical therapy services.

The news came as a shock to many of FitnessWorks’ 2,400 members and 48 employees. And it happened the same day that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted her coronavirus pandemic closure order for all gyms and fitness centers in lower Michigan.

“So the day that all the gyms can open in Michigan, FitnessWorks gets a huge sucker punch,” said Therese Terns, a personal trainer at the center. ” ‘Hey, we’re not opening, and we’re not opening ever.’ “

Theresa Terns,JoAnn Boyd and LaVerne Smith were among the protesters gathered in front of Fitness Works gym, which is closing because Henry Ford Health System is taking over the space on September 11, 2020.

Terns said she and other employees received emails early this week from the management company that operates FitnessWorks, saying the center would probably reopen in early October. But less than 24 hours later, they and everyone else received notice that the center would in fact close for good.

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