SHARON SPRINGS — A long-dormant plan to restore a complex of white-sulfur mineral baths and a spa resort is back on back on track after a Korean businessman nailed down a new financing package, his spokesman told The Daily Star Friday.
Aiden Han, spokesman for Q Sung Cho, said Cho will meet with village officials next week to assure them that the financing package for the multimillion-dollar project has been approved by a New Jersey bank. He said he also will assure them that the investment group behind the project is committed to completing the renovation of the Imperial Baths, the Hotel Adler and other structures.
“We are moving forward now faster than expected,” Han told The Daily Star in a telephone interview.
But village officials, after waiting for nearly seven years for action, say they are running out of patience. They say they have begun discussing the possibility of taking the properties by eminent domain because they fear the vacant buildings to which Cho holds title are beginning to pose a risk to the public safety.
“The onus is on them to show us something we can believe in,” said Doug Plummer, the deputy mayor of this historic Schoharie County village, which straddles U.S. Route 20 about 25 miles northeast of Cooperstown.
It was seven years ago when Cho’s company, Sharon Springs Inc., bought the vacant 150-room Hotel Adler along with the Imperial Baths and other structures for $750,000.
Han said Cho is convinced that most of the buildings, including the Imperial Baths and the Hotel Adler, can be rejuvenated and turned into a high-end resort offering full spa services, mineral baths and overnight accommodations. He said it will attract people from all over the world, especially Asian business people already familiar with the curative properties of sulfur baths.
“We are so excited that we have something concrete now so we can begin the work,” Han said. “This is actually a moment for celebration.”
Han said the skepticism towards the project in the village is understandable given the long delays — delays he said occurred because of problems with Cho’s initial partners, who have since been separated from the project.
“We want to work in harmony with the village officials,” Han said.
Village’s historian Nancy Pfau said the Hotel Adler was the last of the large hotels built in Sharon Springs. It was constructed in 1928 and attracted many wealthy people from New York City.
“It was such a lovely place, with concerts and dances there all the time,” Pfau said.
Years later, when several survivors of the Holocaust were staying at the Adler, filmmaker Steven Spielberg traveled to Sharon Springs to interview them as he prepared for the filming of the epic 1993 drama “Schindler’s List,” Pfau said.
In the 1940s, well before he got into electoral politics, the late Edward I. Koch, who would go on to become mayor of New York City, worked at the Adler as a waiter.
The village had many notable visitors during the summers of the 19th century, when people living in sweltering cities had no air conditioning and flocked to such places as Sharon Springs for the cooler air and the springs. Among those who visited Sharon Springs were noted Irish satirist Oscar Wilde and British novelist Charles Dickens.
Plummer, the deputy mayor as well as the co-owner owner of the nearby American Hotel, said that despite the disappointing setbacks and fits and starts associated with the project thus far, he hopes it turns into a roaring success.
“Believe me, this is something the village wants very much,” he said. “They have been talking about a year-round facility. It would just be invaluable to this entire area.”
Plummer said once the developers nail down their specific renovation plans, local planning officials will need to study them to determine whether potentially lengthy environmental impact reviews will be required.
If, for some reason, the project fails to advance, he said, it will put in jeopardy a $1 million Restore New York grant that was awarded to Cho’s company by the Empire State Development Corp.
Han said Cho is eager to get shovels in the ground.
“Now he is the 100 percent owner,” Han said. “He is determined to make this happen.”
The newly rejuvenated complex, he said, will be called “Sharon.”