Sharon Springs Inc.s' Imperial Baths plans: "Imagine..."

By Patsy Nicosia

Imagine a spa where you exchange your everyday clothes for a luxurious silken robe to wander relaxing, landscaped grounds, dipping into one of three outdoor pools or strolling inside for a massage or facial.
That's the picture Sharon Springs Inc.'s Aiden Han painted Wednesday when he described what the historic Imperial Baths will look like if their Korean-style spa becomes a reality.
"The interior will be beautiful," Mr. Han said. "You will take off your shoes and roam in and out...There will be a waterfall and a beautiful background..."
Mr. Han said plans call for one large and two smaller outdoor pools with water flowing from a cistern on the hill behind the site to create a waterfall.
Inside, there will be a number of steam saunas, each with a health-related theme utilizing different waters.
There will also be rooms with individual soaking tubs for mineral bath treatments and massages-they plan to hire about 30 masseuses, he said; facials, manicures and pedicures will be available and possibly acupuncture too.
There will also be "lots" of restaurants, all of them featuring healthy foods, and even places to shop.
Mr. Han and attorney and surveyor Joanne Crum brought details of the long-proposed SSI Imperial Baths project to the Sharon Springs Joint Planning Board Wednesday.
Ms. Crum said SSI is still working with its architect and engineer to design the project, but she's been spending time in the field and updating the topographical maps they'll use in their formal application.
Ms. Crum said three smaller buildings at the site and the remains of a fourth will be removed, but they will be able to salvage the Imperial Baths and gazebo, both of which will be renovated and restored.
SSI is working to be a part of the community, recently making a $1,000 donation toward the restoration of Chalybeate Park, Ms. Crum said, but she understands why planners and others are skeptical of the proposed project.
"I got burned last time...I waited a long time to get my money," said Ms. Crum of SSI's first spa proposal seven years ago. "But I'm thrilled to be working with them now. I'm not concerned with their integrity."
The original group of investors has changed with one of them, Youn Tae Yoo, jailed in Korea after stealing $6.2 million from Kyusung Cho, who now has sole ownership of the project, Mr. Han said.
"We are serious," he said. "We are paying back all the parties we owe. We want to make this happen as much as you do."
SSI owns a half-dozen properties in the Village of Sharon Springs and Mr. Han said immediate plans focus on taking down the collapsed Washington Hotel.
That project has been delayed by State Historic Preservation Office requirements, he said, but is imminent and he hopes its demolition will be seen as a "show of faith."
Depending on how successful they are with financing and grants, Mr. Han said renovations to the Adler Hotel could be done as part of this phase of construction as a place for the spas' restaurants or more likely, in phase two.
SSI plans to build a dormitory for workers, leading some to speculate that they'll come from outside the area rather than locally.
Once construction begins, Mr. Han said, they're shooting for a one-year construction timetable for the Imperial Baths project.
"We're on the fast track," agreed Ms. Crum. "I don't think it would take a year [construction] if they're serious about it."

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