It was nearly four years ago that we first learned about HITS President Tom Struzzieri’s plan to build a hotel and conference center at the former site of the Cantine Mill on Partition Street. Since then, the project has been hailed as a “shot in the arm” for the village and a sure-fire boon for local businesses and the tax-base by some, and criticized by others for lack of public access and for a supposed conflict-of-interest by U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who had secured federal money for a sewer line near the property while a partner in the project through his co-ownership of the parcel.
In other words, it’s been a typical fractious Hudson Valley development debate. But in this case, the developer kept his head down, played the game and kept the money flowing. Though Struzzieri came away from the process feeling like local governments need to speed up the process and reduce impediments for developers, actually his project, variously estimated at a total cost of $10-12 million, went very fast. Opening day for the hotel is in late September, with the conference center and restaurant to follow Oct. 28.
For the past year, construction on the site has been constant; first with archeological surveys, then blasting, grading, and finally earlier this year, as the steel began to go up, one could finally make out the shape of the new buildings that have been the object of so much discussion.
When the project was proposed, George W. Bush was president, flipping houses was a great way to make money and Bear Stearns was alive and well. Now, several years into the deepest economic slowdown since the Great Depression, you don’t see many big projects coming to fruition. By choosing to go forward with the hotel and convention center, not to shelve it, as many local developers have done with their projects, Tom Struzzieri is placing faith in the idea that there’s a demand in Saugerties for a 31-room hotel (with high-season per-night rates starting at $295), a convention center with a capacity ranging from 400 up to 600 (depending on how the space is used), and a restaurant and bar with a capacity of 150 (indoors) plus another 70 or 80 on the deck, weather permitting. After making my way through a bustling village to visit the site on a recent afternoon, and stepping out onto that aforementioned deck and seeing the waterfall, looking more picturesque than ever from that high and protruding vantage point, I’d venture to say that if this sort of project were to succeed at any place in Ulster County in this most unfortunate economy, it would be here.