Rock-Climbing Gym Scales Zoning Board Process

 New Jersey-based Gravity Vault’s expansion plans include a proposed location on Melville Park Road in Melville.

New Jersey-based Gravity Vault’s expansion plans include a proposed location on Melville Park Road in Melville.

A rock-climbing gymnasium franchise has scaled Huntington’s zoning board of appeals in their efforts to expand into Melville.

The board approved on June 25 a special-use permit for applicant Melville Park Road LLC to convert 17,818-square-foot portion of a 58,623-square-foot building to create a Gravity Vault indoor rock gym. The building is located on 3.8 acres acre site southwest corner Melville Park Road and Maxess Road.

A stop at the Huntington planning board is next for Gravity Vault co-founders Lucas Kovalcik and Tim Walsh. Launched in Upper Saddle River, N.J., in 2005, Gravity Vault’s business model is designed to accommodate gym memberships, private climbing sessions, birthday parties, camps, competitive climbing teams, belay classes and more.

After four years, the business expanded to Chatham, N.J., and in 2013, the first franchise opened in 2013 in Middletown, N.J. Now, it’s looking to expand even further, working to open in states across the East Coast. Its proposed Melville location would be the first on Long Island. Including the Melville location, four gyms are currently under development.

Safety is of paramount importance, Walsh said. All Gravity Vault employees must undergo six hours of training before working at Gravity Vault, Walsh told the zoning board. Belayers, or the staff members who operate the ropes to which clients are hooked for mountain-climbing, undergo special additional training. Anyone over age 14 can take learn how to operate the facility on their own.

The climbing wall is approximately 35 feet high and offers varying degrees of difficulty for climbers.

“We have a lot of moms and dads that run the ropes for their kids, and/or older brothers who run the ropes for anyone under the age of 14,” Walsh said.

Specific to the Melville plans, zoning board Chairman Chris Modelewski raised concerns about allowing parking in front of the structure. He said he prefers the “campus-style, very high-end look” along Route 110 in Huntington.

“There is a manifest difference between the 110 corridor in the Town of Huntington and the 110 corridor in Town of Babylon. We do want to keep it that way,” Modelewski said.

Thomas Abbate, the Woodbury-based attorney representing the property’s owner, agreed.

“We want this site to be more aesthetically pleasing. If Gravity Vault comes in, they want it to be appeal, too,” he said.