Partners in the Woodstock Way Hotel went before the Village of New Paltz Planning Board last week to discuss plans for Water Street Trails Hotel, a 26-room, three-story inn on property located at 11 Water Street.
The Water Street Trails Hotel is the latest project by co-developers Ryan Giuliani and Jesse Halliburton, who previously opened the Woodstock Way Hotel. Halliburton is the owner and principal broker of Prime Real Estate Group in New Jersey, while Giuliani is president and co-founder of boutique hospitality firm Giuliani Social alongside his wife, Mary Giuliani.
It was the first time the ambitious project was before the Planning Board since mid-summer, but the proposal is still roughly the same, a hotel built alongside the Wallkill River and the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which would include replacing the sprawling former box factory currently standing on the .82-acre property with a three-story hotel with a little over 7,500-square feet per floor. A 340-square-foot kitchen for a small cafe and lounge is also part of the proposed new build.
The cafe, and the potential for parking and traffic issues, were among the subjects discussed during the Planning Board meeting held on Tuesday, November 1. The site plan on file was created on May 6, 2022, and includes 30 parking spaces, though an additional five spaces were also discussed during last week’s meeting.
The developers described a cafe primarily geared toward guests of the inn, adding that New York State law would disallow them from keeping the public out if they planned to hold a liquor license.
“We’re not looking to run a full-service restaurant,” said Giuliani. “But we do want our guests to enjoy the area, come back at night, have a glass of wine, relax.”
Giuliani added that they planned to minimize the likelihood of the lounge and cafe becoming popular by not drawing attention to it.
“We have no intention of advertising on (the Water Street) side to any vehicular traffic about a cafe in a hotel that’s mainly for the hotel guests,” he said.
But board members said word of mouth spreading would have to be considered.
“Hotels with a nice lounge are a destination, so people will come,” said Chairman John Litton. “And we’ll want to account for that.”
Also at issue is the need, if any, for increasing the parking spaces on a plot with very little room for expansion. Board member Zach Bialecki suggested that wasn’t necessarily a problem.
“If we don’t add parking spaces it could discourage people from driving there and encourage them to use the rail trail,” Bialecki said.
Which is what the developers are hoping will happen on a stretch of road that may not be able to handle a steep increase in traffic.
“Hopefully our guests who are coming to town, parking their cars, and they’re walking from the back of the building onto the rail trail and heading towards town through the rail trail, not going back out onto the west side,” Giuliani said. “(Because of design and flow) people are going to naturally gravitate toward the back side of the property.”
But even adding pedestrian traffic in the current configuration is not without its potential issues, said some board members.
“I think it’s going to increase the amount of foot traffic on Water Street, and people may choose to walk on Water Street,” said board member Rich Souto, adding that there isn’t currently a sidewalk on the street side of the proposed hotel, where Water Street intersects with Mohonk Avenue, Pencil Hill Road and Plains Road. “And if we are increasing the car traffic and foot traffic in that segment there, that becomes pretty hazardous. And it’s already pretty hazardous…I would love us to consider some pedestrian option on that side of Water Street.”
Litton agreed, adding that the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail isn’t always pedestrian-friendly.
“The difficulty with the rail trail is that it’s not maintained,” Litton said. “So when it’s rainy, snowy, muddy, the rail trail can be a challenge. And I don’t know whether your guests would want to take that challenge, or whether they would say, ‘Let’s just hit the street and walk up to the Water Street Market.’ It’s just something to consider.”
The project will still require a revised Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), and may also need to go before the Village Zoning Board of Appeals if a zoning variance is sought. The property is part of the Gateway (G) District, which according to village zoning code, “corresponds with lands bounded by Wallkill Valley Rail Trail on the west, Water Street to the north and northeast, Mohonk Avenue to the east, Pencil Hill Road to the east, and Plains Road to the east.”
Planning Board members also voted to refer the proposal to traffic consultant Carlito Holt a partner with White Plains-based planning, engineering and landscape architecture firm DTS Provident.