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Ilwon Kang has been involved in developing hotel projects and has expressed skepticism about turning the closed Narrowsburg School, above, into a “boutique hotel” – but his plans are evolving.

Community schools to find new life

By Dan Hust
NARROWSBURG — November 19, 2010 — The sole bidder for Sullivan West’s two closed campuses says he isn’t sure what he wants to do with them yet.
In an interview with the Democrat this week, New York City developer Ilwon Kang confirmed he sees great potential in the Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley buildings, which is why he put in a bid for each, totalling $3 million.
“Obviously I see value in those schools,” he remarked, hinting that 102,500-square-foot DV could, for example, become a boarding school. “But we are in the very preliminary stages of what we can do there. ... We’re going to consider every possibility.”
Kang indicated he’s willing to talk about any idea, but he’s not sure of the feasibility of the concept espoused by a district-supported committee for the Narrowsburg campus.
“I know the hospitality business quite well,” he explained. “The site, I believe, is too small for a boutique hotel.”
With just over two acres mostly taken up by the 30,000-square-foot building – including a cafeteria and gymnasium – Kang doesn’t think the structure could be practically retrofitted to hold the 80-100 rooms he believes would be necessary.
And the seasonal nature of the lodging business in Sullivan County also concerns him.
According to documents provided to SW as part of his bids, Kang has been involved in a variety of hotel projects with Starwood and Marcus and is president of two LLCs focused on acquisition of high-end properties in the tri-state area: Gemini International and Lauris.
Kang has served as owner’s representative, consultant and developer on a variety of luxury hotels, condos and stores, including the $350 million High Line Park Hotel and Residences in Manhattan, the $35 million Haven senior condos in Beacon, the $19 million Milltown Assisted Living Facility in Milltown, NJ, and the $5 million Korea Trade and Distribution warehouse in Queens.
Kang has extensive experience in housing development, stemming from his days as a senior project manager for the NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development.
And that’s what SW Supt. Ken Hilton thinks Kang may do with the two campuses.
“I’m guessing he’s going to be doing something involving housing,” Hilton remarked on Tuesday, a day after he opened the two bids.
But both Hilton and Kang confirmed they have not had discussions about Kang’s plans, and so long as the projects are legal, the district will have no jurisdiction over them.
SW right now still owns the properties, and while Hilton expected a “lively debate” at last night’s annual Facilities Forum at the high school, the board is expected to formally vote on the bids at its December 2 meeting.
If it approves moving forward, Kang will be required to put $150,000 down as a refundable deposit, but then he’ll have five months to research his options, after which he’ll get up to 45 days to close.
Kang’s Gemini International bid $700,000 (the appraised value) for Narrowsburg and $2.3 million for DV ($400,000 less than the appraised value).
But both he and Hilton were surprised that he ended up being the sole bidder.
“That means I bid too much,” Kang lamented.
Hilton had heard others were interested in bidding, but those bids never materialized – possibly because of the exceedingly fragile economy.
“So I think a fair amount of me was pleased there was a bid,” Hilton remarked.
Kang explained that these bids are part of a larger goal of acquiring properties in Sullivan County. He did not identify those properties but acknowledged he was introduced to them by Tim McCausland, former president of the county’s Partnership for Economic Development.
Though a New Jersey resident, Kang has long been familiar with the area, having often enjoyed canoeing on the Delaware River, and he has friends who vacation locally.
He was attracted to the Narrowsburg and DV buildings because they are “solid structures,” and the local real estate market is in the buyer’s favor right now.
“The pricing is at very attractive levels,” he affirmed. “... I may be wrong, but I do see some potential.”
He’s met with possible partners in his plans but said he’s not yet ready to announce particular projects.
Asked if he’ll involve the community in his efforts, Kang answered positively.
“I really intend to go and sit down with people who are interested in the project,” he remarked.

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