By Dan Hust
LIVINGSTON MANOR May 18, 2001 It all began with a quiet meeting at the Rockland House in Roscoe just a few weeks ago, where several locals and some heavy-duty hotel developers chatted about an old but once-famous resort on a hill just south of Roscoe.
Hotel Development Corporation President Robert Schwartz, who is a partner with Hyatts director of development in Chicago, was asked to keep an eye out for sexy properties in the Northeast, and with the help of area people like former Town of Rockland Supervisor B. Elton Harris, he found one called the Campbell Inn.
From there, Schwartz went to St. Petersburg, Russia and negotiated the inns purchase with current owner Boris Potapovsky, who came from Moscow.
And on Wednesday, Schwartz returned to the area, as he, Harris and a small entourage of fellow planners unveiled their ideas for the old inn at a Town of Rockland Planning Board special meeting in Livingston Manor.
However, most of the 30 or so residents in attendance, who had been tipped off to the meeting by whispers of a new health spa in town, were stunned to find out that Schwartzs vision went far beyond a spa to an $80 million, 11-story hotel to be constructed on top of a to-be-demolished Campbell Inn.
But though the 100-year-old inn would be destroyed, the new edifice, towering 130 feet over the hamlet of Roscoe, would still keep the name Campbell adding to it the words Chateau Resort and Health Spa.
We have a great respect for the Campbell Inn, said Schwartz. For 32 years, my parents spent every summer [there].
At the age of 11, Schwartz himself began coming up from his home of Brooklyn to the grand and long hotel on the mountainside above Roscoe then owned by the Wood family, who had purchased it in 1932 from descendents of hotel builder Jefferson Campbell.
Thus, fellow developer James Ackerly (who operates a real estate firm out of Atlanta, where Schwartz is also based), himself a Roscoe native, and Harris joined Schwartz and several others in creating National Ventures Roscoe, LLC to restore the Campbell Inn to its former glory.
And though the building will be new, Schwartz and company hope to renew a tradition of service and excellence that once brought the Rockefellers to the Campbell Inn (the family still owns property in Lew Beach).
How? Well, Schwartz cautioned that the hotel is still in the conceptual phase, but plans include a 200-room hotel with ten two-level penthouse suites at the top, a 50,000-square-foot health spa, indoor Olympic-size swimming pool, restoration of the lake behind the hotel to its former size, and upwards of 400 employees (150 of which will be from the management company, which likely will be either Hyatt, Starwood, Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons, said Schwartz).
There could also be hiking, biking, tennis courts, fishing, horseback riding, skeet shooting, boating, ice skating, cross-country skiing, hunting, snowmobiling and classes and facilities appropriate to a health spa, like gymnasiums, a solarium, saunas, massage rooms, and jacuzzis. Theres even talk of limousine and helicopter service to the luxury hotel, along with an AKA-approved kennel.
What about a casino?
We would be the first in line to object to any gambling, said Schwartz. Thats not the purpose of this hotel, and we dont want it. If our guests want to gamble, theyll get a suite at the Venetian in Las Vegas.
And what about competition?
We will open this below the rates of Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, said Schwartz, speaking of the $600-$1,600 a night guests will be charged. Thats our direct competition.
Canyon Ranch has three hotel/health spas with many of the dining and recreational amenities Schwartz hopes to offer locally: the one in the Berkshires, one in Las Vegas and one in Tucson, Arizona all high-priced and catering almost exclusively to the affluent. (Schwartz said he recently tried to book a room at Canyon Ranch in Lenox and was told none were available until October.)
When asked about nearby projects like the Concord, Schwartz responded, Thats another world to us. [The people who come to the Campbell] are not the same people who will go to the Concord.
Schwartz and his crew, which includes businessmen who have built everything from Doubletree and Hilton hotels to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, are confident that a 70 percent occupancy rate will be continuously achieved in the hotels May-October season once it opens in the spring of 2004.
We think this is possibly one of the most romantic sites there is in the country, he said.
The numbers look appealing, too, said Schwartz, speaking of a seven-figure tax contribution and at least a $7 million annual payroll.
Sounds good to me! chimed Rockland Supervisor Pat Pomeroy when she heard those figures.
Speaking for the board, Planning Board Chair Tom Quick agreed, Id sure like to see you go ahead with this.
The next step is for the planning board to review the hotel companys application on June 6 a critical one, since Schwartz was none too subtle in saying that his company would go elsewhere if significant troubles arose with local governmental entities.
Former Campbell Inn owner Shirley Wood, who sold the property in 1986 after 54 years of family ownership, and her niece, Ruth Green, who began working at the Campbell Inn when she was 13, both hope it will be approved, despite the fact that the circa-1900 resort will be demolished.
Were very excited to think something this great is coming to Roscoe, remarked Green, who recalled the days when the Campbell Inn, a non-kosher resort, primarily served Jewish vacationers.
I think they have a very good, laid-out program, added Wood, explaining that two of the involved developers spoke with her at length yesterday morning. Im not opposed to it. Anything thats going to be good for Roscoe and the area is good for me.