State delivers $2.2M in holiday cheer for local projects

ALBANY—Governor Andrew Cuomo played Santa Claus a little early this year when he announced $715.9 million in economic development funding through round three of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative.

Columbia County projects received eight grant awards amounting to $2,235,584 in total.

The only project to receive two grants in the county was a revived plan for a four-season resort at the Catamount Ski Area and Adventure Park. The project received a total $1.2 million for infrastructure including a sewage treatment facility that will serve the resort.

Though the ski area straddles the New York/Massachusetts border, the area to be developed into the resort complex is situated on 10 acres in Copake, according to Harry Freeman of Windsor, CT.

Mr. Freeman is a principal in Rock Solid Development, LLC, the company that stepped in to revitalize the resort project, which fell by the wayside presumably for lack of financing after securing most of its permit approvals in 2006. The project’s site plan approval expired in 2010.

Mr. Freeman told The Columbia Paper this week that his venture is seeking updated approvals from the town Planning Board for its site plan and from the Zoning Board of Appeals for a special permit. He said the revised $80 million project, called the Berkshire Mountain Club, will be built in three phases over 10 years and include a total 153 residential units.

The first building, covering 120,000 square feet, will contain 63 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites ranging from 500 to 1,500 square feet each. The units will have “fractional ownership” and be sold as “fifth shares,” said Mr. Freeman, explaining that the units will be vacation homes where the owners spend time every fifth weekend.

When not in use by the owners, the suites will be available for occupancy by hotel guests, he said.

The suites will be comparable to those in four-to-five star hotels, with high-end features such as gas fireplaces and granite countertops.

The first phase will also include a restaurant and lounge, fitness center, an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, Jacuzzis, fire pits, meeting facilities, a spa, locker rooms and “club space.”

With the hotel situated at the base of the mountain and about 30 feet away from a ski lift, visitors will be able to ski on and off the mountain from their suites.

Mr. Freeman said he hopes to start selling and taking orders in late spring 2014 with an eye toward breaking ground in late summer 2014 or the spring of 2015.

The second building phase includes building a new Catamount Ski Lodge, banquet facilities, 20 more residential units and support retail space.

In the third phase, 70 residential units will be constructed along with more retail space and owner amenities.

“The goal is to change the experience,” said Mr. Freeman, adding that the Catamount Ski Area is entering its 74th season in business. The resort project will help Catamount expand that longevity, he said.

Catamount President Tom Gilbert and Vice President Richard Edwards along with Albany construction company BBL are all partners in the venture, and make for a “strong team,” Mr. Freeman said.

It is expected that the project will create 100+ construction jobs and once the resort is up and running will employ 65 to 70 people full-time.

Mr. Freeman thanked all those involved including Columbia County Planning & Economic Development Department Commissioner Ken Flood, Governor Cuomo and local officials, who have all been “great and very supportive,” said Mr. Freeman, noting his aim “to build a first class” facility.

The Regional Councils were put in place in 2011 to redesign the state’s approach to economic development from a top-down model to a community-based, performance-driven approach,” according to a December 11 press release from the governor’s office.

The initiative empowers community, business, and academic leaders, as well as members of the public in each region of the state, to develop strategic plans specifically tailored to their region’s unique strengths and resources in order to create jobs and support economic growth,” the release said.

“The Regional Councils were empowered to change the face of economic development in their communities and they have accomplished just that. This third round of awards continues the state’s commitment to these creative and groundbreaking plans and recognizes the immense progress that has already been made in revitalizing our economy and putting New Yorkers back to work,” Governor Cuomo said in the release.

Other Columbia County grants went to:

Casella Organics, $180,000 to purchase of materials and equipment to manufacture animal bedding from paper mill residuals. The project is in partnership with Columbia County Economic Development.

Eurial Feasibility Study, for the international cheese company Eurial, which would like to expand; $35,000 to examine potential expansion in the region to serve local, regional and national markets.

Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, Inc., $375,584.00 to fund the construction of 1.54 miles of rail trail from Black Grocery Road in Copake to Anthony Street in Hillsdale. Construction of this section of the trail will link with the Town of Hillsdale to the Roeliff Jansen State Park and Roeliff Jansen Community Library. Housing Resources of Columbia County Inc. will use $100,000 in Rural Area Revitalization Projects funds to renovate a four-unit residential property on State Street in Hudson.

Hudson Development Corporation will use $150,000 in Rural Area Revitalization Projects funds to assist the Hudson Day Care Center building in Hudson.

The Olana Partnership will use $195,000 to create design documents for the stabilization and restoration of the 19th Century Main Barn complex at the Olana State Historic Site, the home, studio, farm and landscape designed by Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church, with the eventual goal of restoring the entire barn structure so that it can be opened to the public.

Columbia and Sullivan counties, Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation received $225,000 to establish Mid-Hudson/Capital Region LTL Local Food Distribution Hub helping farmers get their products to market. Funds will be used to build a facility in Sullivan County and Columbia County will retrofit 10,000 square feet of space. (This award was not included in the total amount received by Columbia County referred to above.)

To contact Diane Valden email .


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