A climbing gym is opening in Norfolk, thanks in no small part to the vision of these two men, Robert Roman and Claus Ihlemann.
Robert and Claus have been very successful in a number of fields. They are ace real estate developers, own maybe the most respected home furnishing store in town (Decorum), and are also two of the most impactful social activists in the region, having helped launch — and grow — the Hampton Roads PRIDE event in Town Point Park, among a plethora of other worthy causes.
The guys recently led me on a tour of 1830 Lindsay Avenue, soon-to-be home of Latitude Climbing + Fitness. It’s going to be a special project, and a fitting metaphor for two men with great aspirations for the Mermaid City. I threw a few questions their way after the tour.
AltDaily: Your Lindsay Avenue project is exciting. Anyone taking the time, care, and cost to go the route of adaptive re-use for a project gets a blue ribbon from me.
What is the building you found, and what have you done to it? Where is it heading?
Robert and Claus: The building we found is at 1830 Lindsay Avenue. We often travel on 20th Street as a shortcut to traverse the city. We always admired a dilapidated building in need of major TLC, and dreamed of what this building could become. One day we stopped dreaming and pursued the owners of the building and here we are today, owners of a building that has been historically restored to its former beauty.
The renovations of over one million dollars included a new roof, complete restoration of historic windows, new skylights, re-parging and painting. In the interior, we retained as much of the original exposed brick. One third of the building will house Decorum Furniture’s warehouse and the other two thirds will house Latitude Climbing and Fitness, a rock climbing/fitness and yoga studio.
There are already a number of gyms in Norfolk, notably One Life, the YMCA system, and gyms on base and at schools. It would speak well of the health of Norfolk citizens if this project can be supported too.
We agree. Latitude Climbing and Fitness brings a unique perspective to health and fitness. It will provide an environment that promotes team building in a very interactive format.
Where do you think Norfolk is heading, as a culture?
Norfolk continues to be the hub of multiculturalism. It is a city that embraces all people, from all walks of life. Are we perfect? No, but we are making major strides in that area. We now see a time where Norfolk could be seen as one of the most livable cities on the East Coast.
You own a significant amount of real estate in Ghent. During our tour, you mentioned a greater need for density in Norfolk. Can you explain why you believe density is good for a city? What are some opportunities you see for greater density that the city has not taken, but they should?
Population density is the key for growth in a city. More people means a greater opportunity to use mass transit as a means to move people around. More density means greater opportunity for entrepreneurial growth. It means more opportunity for the arts. It means more opportunity for education. Imagine a farmers market filled with purveyors of local products. We can dream!
You are well known for your philanthropy and support of progressive causes. Robert and Claus make a difference. What is your message to everyone out there who cares deeply about an issue, but isn’t sure where to best put their energy?
Our motto is simple: Pay it Forward. It is not about how much you can give. It’s about how much you can do. In a world that spins so fast, we should take time to slow down and assess how we can make this world a better place.
For anyone who has not been to Decorum, what’s your elevator pitch for why they should stop into the show room?
Our pitch is simple: Ask the thousands of customers why they come back. We thrive on making customer experience one they will not forget. We are vested in our community and think that shopping local is the key. It’s what keeps us loving Ghent, Norfolk and Hampton Roads.
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