COPAKE—Will future travelers to Columbia County someday book their reservations for a stay in luxurious accommodations at the Roe Jan Resort Hotel?
That’s the aim of the Copake Economic Development Advisory Committee (CEDAC), which has formulated a detailed plan to get a qualified developer to buy and fix up the former Roeliff Jansen Central School and make it into “destination or resort hotel property.”
CEDAC Chairman Thomas Goldsworthy came before the Town Board at its May 13 meeting to unveil the proposal and get the board’s okay to move forward.
The five to seven member CEDAC was appointed by the Town Board last year and has the mission to promote sustainable economic development in Copake by encouraging and supporting existing businesses and attracting new business opportunities to the town. It advocates for and balances the needs of residents, business owners, environmental sustainability, quality of life, and public works. The CEDAC is an advisory committee to the Town Board and makes recommendations for strategies which would contribute to the economic vitality of the Town of Copake.
Mr. Goldsworthy started out with a bit of history, noting that the school on the west side of Route 22, just south of the Roe Jan Community Library, became vacant in 1999, when the Taconic Hills School District moved all its students to one new campus at 73 County Route 11A, Craryville. The first graduating class at the new home of the Titans was the Class of 2000.
The old school, built in 1932 of brick and masonry construction with a slate roof, is mostly two-stories, with a subsequent addition in 1962. It has more than 97,000-square-feet of space and is situated on 39.3 acres in Copake.
The place is currently owned by a Bronx real estate company that invests in commercial buildings, Mr. Goldsworthy told the board. The company paid $500,000 for the school and property in 2014. It is assessed at $750,000 and annual taxes are $14,000.
The massive vacant structure has deteriorated over the years and the property is not currently maintained or secure. Vandalism has occurred, he said. “It is a blight on the town and we’d all like to see it restored and brought back—it would significantly benefit the town. It is a visible landmark and has sentimental value.”
The place was on the market for $2.9 million, but the price was recently reduced to $2.5 million, he said.
“The property could ideally be developed as a 105-room hotel, with banquet and event space, restaurant and meeting rooms and fitness spa.” The property “may also further be developed for new residences with hotel services, additional guest rooms or other amenities,” the CEDAC’s 14-page memorandum says.
The CEDAC enlisted Historic Preservation Architect Jack Alvarez, who is also a Roe Jan alumnus, to evaluate the place.
Mr. Alvarez found the structure to be “well-built and solid.”
With such sturdy bones, an estimated $40-million project investment would fix the place up just fine.
“The property has been identified by the New York State Preservation Office as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which would qualify it for a 40% historic investment tax credit, which is transferable,” according to the memo. Additional economic incentives may be available through the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation.
Mr. Goldsworthy said the property owner would have to agree to have the place listed on the historic registry to qualify for the 40% tax credit (20% from the federal government and 20% from the state) which could result in a potential reduction in the project cost to $26.9 million.
All these factors make the idea of a resort hotel project “feasible by a private developer,” he said, noting that the CEDAC had narrowed the possible redevelopment uses for the school to: a not-for-profit institution; residential use, such as senior housing/assisted living, or a hotel.
He said the property is zoned “multi-use” which means a hotel is allowed with a special use permit. A new hotel could generate added property taxes, jobs, sales tax revenues and tourism for the town, said Mr. Goldsworthy, noting the things the town likes to promote about itself are its agriculture, its outdoor recreation activities and tourism.
In speaking with the owner three weeks ago, Mr. Goldsworthy said he floated the hotel idea and asked the owner’s intentions for the school. The owner told him the place is definitely for sale and the company is interested in ideas that would lead to purchase of the property. The company might even be interested in rolling its investment into a new project venture, he said.
The CEDAC believes “we should publicize the property and generate interest, then point them to the owner and let them negotiate a transaction,” said Mr. Goldsworthy. He stressed that it is important that the town “not be a party to a transaction, but to allow private interests to move forward with a project.”
The committee’s descriptive memo includes: a property overview complete with what the place is made of; architectural style; floor plans—current and future; photographs; site proximity and site accessibility by car, train and air; and a long list of things to do and sights to see in and around Columbia County.
Town Supervisor Jeanne Mettler thanked Mr. Goldsworthy and the CEDAC for its exceptional memo which “describes exciting prospects for Copake.”
Deputy Supervisor/Councilman Richard Wolf told Mr. Goldsworthy that the committee had done “extraordinary work” and collected “a ton of information.”
Mr. Goldsworthy said the committee wanted to know the feasibility of a project in which the building is preserved and renovated. Project costs would have to include asbestos and lead remediation along with significant upgrades and replacement of mechanical systems, interior surfaces and weatherproofing. He said, Mr. Alvarez recently worked on the Hotel Saranac on Saranac Lake, which had “all the same issues.”
Mr. Goldsworthy told the board that “the community wants us to make the effort so the town can be proud of the property again and it will bring economic benefit to the town.”
The board voted unanimously to allow the CEDAC to publicize the hotel development opportunity at the Roe Jan School.
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