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  • A decade later, Sharon's $9 million project breaks ground

    6/8/2016 By Patsy Nicosia

    You can't blame Sharon Springs for being a little giddy. Or a lot.
    After all, Wednesday's groundbreaking in the doorway of the Imperial Baths was easily a decade in the making.
    And though there were, as Mayor Doug Plummer pointed out, some crazy ideas and developments along the way, "It's time to get this project started."
    More than 100 Sharon Springs residents packed the foyer of the Baths to hear SSI's Kevin Lee, project manager, trace the project's timeline from March 2008 to May's site plan approval by Sharon's Joint Planning Board.
    "Today we celebrate beginning construction," Mr. Lee said. Though actually, construction has already begun at the rear of the building, something an enthusiastic Mr. Lee pointed out afterwards as he led guests on a tour of the grounds. SSI President Kyu Sung Cho was equally enthusiastic, as he explained the project and what it will mean to Sharon Springs and beyond.
    In a nutshell, SSI plans to invest $9.1 million to renovate the Imperial Bath & Spa, part one of a project that will eventually include the Columbia Hotel and Adler Hotel. (See related story on page x.) No one was more enthusiastic than Mayor Plummer, however, who asked the crowd, "Is this not so incredibly excellent?!"

    "I'm proud to say I've been a staunch cheerleader for the project for the past eight years," Mayor Plummer said.
    "This will put people back on Main Street. None of it would have happened without the hard work and support of so many of the people in this room. I'm so proud of us all."
    Mayor Plummer urged the crowd to go with Mr. Lee on his tour around the building. "You really want to see it now, because you're not going to believe it later."
    Most of the crowd took the Mayor's advice, following along as Mr. Lee used photographs displayed on easels along the route to explain the concepts behind the project, which will include indoor and outdoor saunas and baths, massages, and a restaurant.
    The spa is intended as a relaxing escape, Mr. Lee said, and its design will incorporate much of the Baths' history and architecture.
    The 100yearold boiler and chimney along Brimstone Creek will be retained and enclosed in glass with an outdoor fireplace adding to the ambiance and a Koreanstyle restaurant with a glass wall will also allow diners to look down on the creek.
    Mr. Kim also told the tour that a waterfalls on the north side of the property will be uncovered when foliage is neatened up.
    Construction is slated to run through December 2017.

  • A groundbreaking was held Wednesday at Imperial Bath & Spa to mark the beginning of a multi-million dollar renovation project at the once storied bathhouse on Main Street.
    The development comes after years of raised hopes from residents that were followed only by stagnation. Sharon Springs became a destination in the early 1900s thanks to its multiple natural mineral spas, but experienced a roller coaster of highs and lows throughout the rest of the century, eventually becoming down on its luck in the 1970s and 1980s.
    For the past 15 years a handful of business owners have been slowly nursing the village — population 544 — back to life by renovating historic hotels and other establishments in the active Lower Main Street District. Now, after hints at progress for over a decade, Imperial Bath & Spa appears to ៯nally be on the verge of a major renovation.
    The resort was bought by the South Korea-based Sharon Springs Inc. in 2004 but closed in 2005. In 2009 the village helped secure a $1 million state development grant, but nothing happened. The company acquired and demolished the nearby dilapidated Washington Hotel in 2013, which some in the village took as a sign of progress, but residents were again disappointed by inaction.
    Village o៝cials learned last year that Sharon Springs Inc. had been struggling with internal ៯nancial issues, including a $6 million embezzlement scandal, but had recently gotten its house in order and was able to secure enough capital to proceed with renovating Imperial Bath & Spa.
    The company presented a restoration plan to village o៝cials last April and began removing asbestos from the premises last May. For the past year Sharon Springs Inc. has worked to get an environmental review and full site plan through various stages of oversight at the local and state levels.
    A consultant on the project for Sharon Springs Inc. told The Daily Gazette in February that the company expected to receive ៯nal approval for their project shortly. Village o៝cials said the groundbreaking Wednesday marks the start of a $10 million renovation of Imperial Bath & Spa by Sharon Springs Inc.

  • Sharon Springs was an internationally known tourist destination in the 19th and early 20th centuries thanks to its naturally occurring mineral springs. The village took a downturn during the Great Depression but experienced a post-World War II resurgence with investment from the Hasidic Jewish community. By the 1980s, however, Sharon Springs had once again fallen into neglect and disrepair.
    But starting around 15 years ago, the quintessentially American village, nestled among vast tracts of farmland in rural Schoharie County, began to attract investors who were drawn to the historic signi៯cance and potential of Sharon Springs.
    In the past several years, plans to rejuvenate the village's many spas, bathhouses and hotels have progressed in ៯ts and starts, with glimmers of hope marred by doubt when plans fall through. But after some recent publicity, and steady investment from a core group of residents, local business leaders and o៝cials believe the village is on the precipice of yet another comeback.

    Below are several projects and initiatives that the people of Sharon Springs are looking forward to in 2017 and beyond.
    IMPERIAL BATHS South Korean-based company Sharon Springs Inc. created a lot of buzz when it purchased the once-majestic Imperial Baths bathhouse on Main Street in 2004. The company also acquired several other properties, including the Adler Hotel, Columbia Hotel and the now-demolished Washington Hotel.
    But an embezzlement scandal within the company derailed plans to renovate Imperial Baths and the other properties, and for years the project stood stagnant. In the past two years, however, with its house brought into order, Sharon Springs Inc. is working steadily on renovating Imperial Baths into a Korean-style spa.
    "We're very pleased because the property sat there for almost 11 years deteriorating and we began to lose hope that anything was going to happen," said Sandra Manko, a county supervisor for the town of Sharon (Sharon Springs is a village within the town). "They're moving ahead and they've been working every week since last summer." ROSEBORO HOTEL Ron Ketelson, who owns and is renovating the Roseboro Hotel, also on Main Street, said he's working to open a tea shop in the hotel this spring before completing work at the hotel and eventually opening a restaurant on the premises.
    "It's going in phases," said Ketelson of the renovation project. "So the next phase will be to ៯nish the shop area so we'll be able to open more specialty shops.
    "S H A R E CLASSIFIED LOGIN SUBSCRIBE Ketelson, who is also the president of the Sharon Springs Chamber of Commerce, said he's also looking to open two antiques shops on site in the spring. He added that the ballroom and the dining room are currently under renovation, while restoring the guestrooms at the historic hotel is still a ways o៛.
    "I think great things are happening and will continue to happen. It just takes time," he said. Plans to open the restaurant won't come to fruition until next spring, he added. "I don't want to jump into a full-service restaurant. We need to phase things a bit," said Ketelson.
    FESTIVALS, RECENT PUBLICITYKetelson said the chamber is excited about two festivals that have been added to Sharon Springs' events lineup. For years the village has held a Harvest Party, Garden Party and Victorian Festival, but has recently added an antiques festival and Fourth of July event.
    The village has also bene៯ted from recent publicity in the form of the Dancing Farmer, local farmer Jay Lavery, whose video of him dancing in his barn with farm animals went viral. The video earned Lavery an appearance on "The Ellen Degeneres Show" in January.
    Ketelson said he's been getting an increased amount of inquiries around real estate and people who are interested in ៯lming in Sharon Springs.
    "I think more and more people are becoming familiar with Sharon Springs. As they see or hear things, I'm getting more calls," he said, noting that two producers recently inquired about shooting ៯lm projects in the village. He's also received calls from people wondering what the real estate market in Sharon Springs is doing. "There is property for sale," said Ketelson, noting the availability of everything from residential buildings to farmland in a variety of price ranges, from $20,000 to over a million.
    "Every day we're seeing new things come along and new people looking to open a business or move [to Sharon Springs] because it's such a unique community," said Ketelson. "Once they come, they just kind of fall in love with it, and we're seeing more and more of that, which is really exciting.
    "YEAR-ROUND TOURISM There is also a push in the village for business leaders and o៝cials to support year-round tourism. Currently, many of the shops and hotels are operating on a seasonal basis, but there's an e៛ort underway to make tourism a sustainable, year-round operation.
    Antony Daou, owner of the Black Cat Cafe, also on Main Street, said much of the excitement now is centered on Sharon Springs Inc.'s plans to open Imperial Baths year-round.
    "I think the big story about [Imperial Baths] is that it's going to be a year-round business," said Daou, noting that although Sharon Springs Inc. is remaking the bathhouse in a Korean style, there will be something for everyone. "They're bringing back the feel of what the bath used to be like and that's what's exciting." Ketelson said he's also excited about Sharon Springs being more active year-round. "We get a lot of people through there and the only reason there's quiet this time of year is everyone decided to close for the winter," said Ketelson. "If everyone stayed open year-round we'd have business." Ketelson said once his Roseboro Hotel is up and running he plans to be open all year long, as does Sharon Springs Inc. with its various ventures.
    "The more that people do that, the more we're going to have regular business coming through there," he said. "People don't realize what's there and it's becoming more of a destination spot." COLUMBIA HOTEL Among Sharon Springs Inc.'s many projects is the renovation of the historic Columbia Hotel. Daou, who said he's close with executives at the company, said it has plans to renovate and open the hotel as early as December of this year or in the spring of 2018.
    "They exude so much positive energy, these people. They are so serious about it," said Daou of executives at Sharon Springs Inc. and their desire to help bring the village back. "There's just activity, there's this feeling in the air of growth. ... It's like an upswell of positive actions going on."
    The e៛ort to renovate the hotel was given a boost in December when the project was awarded a $1 million grant from the Regional Economic Development Council. The council's annual contest awards hundreds of millions in funds to projects in regions across the state that seek to improve local economies.

  • Sharon Springs spa plan wins approval

    By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer May 27, 2016

    SHARON SPRINGS — After years of delay, a $10 million project aimed at converting the longshuttered

    Imperial Baths into a luxury resort is finally getting off the ground. A groundbreaking event is slated to be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the health spa, site of a storied sulfur bath that was a popular destination a century ago.
    "I couldn't be happier that this is finally happening," said village Mayor Doug Plummer, the cooperator of the American Hotel, another business that was revived and has become a beacon for tourists.

    The project developer is Kyusung Cho, a Korean businessman who owns Donbu Tour and Travel Inc., a business that runs tourist buses from New York City to Niagara Falls.
    Cho, in discussing the Sharon Springs project on its new web page, said the bus business will help bring clients to the resort located in the heart of the village.
    "The resort can easily be added to the existing tour packages," he said, noting his company brings some 40,000 people to Niagara Falls yearly.
    Cho also pointed out that the spa industry is "growing continuously." "In the past, spa was perceived as an alternative medical experience," Cho said. "Today, the perception has changed and it is now considered family friendly leisure experience." Promotional material for the business boasts that it has "the best sulfur water in the U.S. — with 7,000 percent of the sulfur found in Korea's sulfur water spa."
    ContributedThis artist's rendering shows the proposed overhaul of the Imperial Baths complex in Sharon Springs.

    "The skin care products we can create using the water are limitless," Cho said. "And its healing power is already proven. " The renovation work could take 18 months to two years to complete, said Kevin Lee, a spokesman for the business.
    Plummer said the resort's site plan was recently approved by the community's joint planning board. The state Office of Historic Preservation Office has granted permits for the exterior work, and is still reviewing the plans for the interior renovation,he said. "They really have their ducks in a row now," the mayor said.
    The second phase of the project — incorporating an Asianthemed restaurant and lodging into the complex — will begin later. The third phase of the project is a major restoration the longclosed Hotel Adler, which has fallen into serious disrepair after being abandoned for years.The health spa has the potential for tourism partnerships with other nearby vacation destinations, including Cooperstown and Howe Caverns, according to Plummer.
    Sharon Springs fell into decline as a tourism destination as automobile culture boomed in the early 20th century. The village took another hit when the state Thruway was opened in 1954, prompting a major decline in traffic along U.S. Route 20.
    The village has been waging a comeback since 1994, when the local historical society succeeded in getting 180 buildings designated as a historic district that would be placed on the state's Register of Historic Places.
    May 28, 2016 Newest Oldest Jake Tucker Sign in 2 people†listening I hope they plan on using local contractors for some of the work. My construction company along with many other local company's could really use some of this work were we could spend sometime with our family's instead of having to travel great distances for work.There is always right!!! A N D CONSTRUCTION SERVICES

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