Gracie Raleigh + Iron District CrossFit

A 10,000 sq ft new construction project in Raleigh, NC. This project was over a $2M spend, and we were hired to manage the complete project.
  • Location Raleigh, NC
  • Completion 2022
  • Type New Construction
  • Size 10,000 SF
  • Architect Maurer Architecture
  • Contractor WRBC

The Challenge

Brandon Garner is well-accustomed to hard work and difficult challenges. After all, he’s a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and a veteran MMA fighter with an 8-1 record in the cage. To say Garner thrives on adversity is an understatement. Yet, none of his experiences could have prepared him for the trials and tribulations of building a brand-new, 10,000 square foot training facility during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In early 2019, Garner spent his evenings after work driving the industrial quarters of Raleigh, NC in search of a commercial warehouse he could buy. His vision was to combine the two gyms he owned–Gracie Raleigh and Iron District CrossFit–into a single physical location. He knew he needed about 10,000 square feet to make it happen, but the supply of buildings of any size was extremely low at the time. Even with the eventual help of an agent, Garner never found anything that met his specifications.

Having almost given up, Garner stumbled across a vacant plot of land in the perfect part of town. Instead of renovating an old warehouse, he thought, perhaps he’d build the space he needed from the ground up.

Garner seized the opportunity to purchase the land and began collecting construction estimates for a 10,000 SF metal building. However, the numbers that came back were well beyond his budget.

Building a Team

That’s when Garner contacted a fellow CrossFit gym owner by the name of Chris Wade for some advice. Wade had recently built a brand-new 8,000 SF gym of his own called Nexus Fitness, and he had used Plan North Partners to help him build it.

Garner asked Wade every question he could think of to flush out solutions to his problem of how to put an affordable metal building on a vacant plot of land. But one piece of advice really stuck out to Garner.

“One of the things [Wade] found most valuable was having an owner’s rep project manager,” Garner recalled.

Wade put Garner in touch with Greg Garcia of Plan North Partners, and soon they were brainstorming ways to bring Garner’s dream back to life. Garcia showed Garner ways to reduce the cost of a new building through value-engineering and a competitive bidding process amongst potential General Contractors. Garner’s vision was slowing taking shape on paper, but the real-world challenges kept rolling in as well. By March of 2020, the halting force of the pandemic brought serious doubt to the project.

“Here I am, in it for the cost of the land, and I don’t even know if I can build on it,” recalled Garner.

The local government had shuttered both of his businesses, pre-construction operations had slowed to a crawl, material costs were skyrocketing, and the SBA had become unresponsive for weeks at a time while administering their famed Paycheck Protection Program. But Garcia and his team served as the first line of defense against each of these challenges, and more.

The Result

Gracie Raleigh and Iron District CrossFit finally opened the doors to their new joint facility in November 2022—roughly three years after Garner had acquired the land on which his two gyms now sit.

“There’s no way I could have done it without an owner’s rep. Absolutely no way,” said Garner. “It went on for so long, the real value [of Plan North Partners] was in keeping the process moving, keeping everyone accountable, keeping everyone on task.”

Garner asserts that this project was the biggest challenge of his life—which is saying a lot coming from an MMA fighter. It was three years of significant stress, but Garner is thrilled to have had Plan North Partners in his corner.

“It was honorable of Greg and his team to stick with it for three years,” said Garner. “It’s important to trust someone you’re working so closely with, especially when your neck and your house are on the line.”

 “I’d definitely do it again,” said Garner.