Demolition first step for Sharon spas
By Patsy Nicosia
With time running out for the Imperial Baths, Sharon Springs Inc. representatives said they're ready to get started on the $10 million project.
And that first step?
SSI is under order by the Village of Sharon Springs to address safety issues at the dilapidated Imperial Baths and even worse-off lower buildings.
SSI consultant Jody Zakrevsky said they're waiting on the go-ahead from the state to start removing the asbestos-laden stucco from the front of the Imperial Baths, but that work could start as soon as this week.
As part of that work, the collapsed Lower Baths and Laundry and Medical Buildings will be demolished.
SSI reps made presentations to Sharon's Joint Planning Board Wednesday and the Village of Sharon Springs Thursday.
It was the latest look at plans to restore the historic spa since SSI purchased the buildings in 2006.
"It's the nicest presentation I've seen," said Planning Board member Mary Ann Larkin afterwards. "Style-wise, it was the best one yet."
Architect Sean Kim described the front of the new Imperial Baths as looking much like it always has-even with the same colors.
The look at the rear, he said, will be more Asian as SSI works to merge the two cultures.
"We want to embrace the history of Sharon Springs and all of its memories," Mr. Kim said.
The project-in all of its variations-has been delayed for almost a decade by financial disputes between the investors.
In March, Kyusung 'Sam' Cho became SSI's sole owner and bankers released the project's funding, finally moving it ahead.
SSI is up against the clock to use or lose a $1 million Restore New York grant.
Unofficially, another round of Restore New York funding is slated for the fall and all unused grants will be "swept" back into the pot, said Mayor Doug Plummer.
"If this [SSI's plans] morphs again, there will be no $1 million," he said.
Long-range plans call for demolishing the Columbia Hotel for a parking lot and even longer range, restoring the Adler Hotel.
But Mr. Zakrevsky said both of those pieces are dependant on restoring the Imperial Baths first.
"It's now a rush," he said.
Other than the demolition permit, however, SSI has yet to file any request for building permits or formal plans with the village.
There is some concern that SSI could begin demolition work and then walk away, leaving Sharon Springs worse off.
And Planning Board member Ann Adams, who said she has no problem with the project, argued the village needs to look at it as a whole, and not piece-by-piece.
"If it's going to be this big, we need to look at what it's going do go to this community socially and economically," she said.
There's also the issue of a PILOT-payment in lieu of taxes.
Though there's enough money for the Imperial Baths, "The Adler won't be reconstructed without a PILOT," Mr. Zakrevsky said--the reason why those plans aren't finalized.
"Without phase one, there won't be a phase two or three," he said.