Proposed Beacon Spa Hotel Mirbeau Faces Approval Process
The property just south of the Mount Beacon parking lot dates to the late 1700s.
It housed a Revolutionary War lieutenant, a Civil War general, and a famous abolitionist preacher. Parts of the area have served as a Manhattan immigrant children’s aid camp, summer residence, horse farm, school, and psychiatric hospital specializing in the treatment of drug addiction.
Two decades of vacancy have left the sprawling Tioronda Estate property overgrown, with dead branches and brush obscuring views.
The red and orange exterior of his signature mansion gives the appearance of rust, punctuating his decline.
But the 161-year-old structure remains a striking sight, appearing behind the trees without warning to anyone traveling along Route 9D.
It’s a sight the City of Beacon would like to preserve and enhance, even as the mixed-use property looks set for another new use.
Mirbeau, a family business with a small chain of spas in the northeast, is seeking approvals to create its latest project on the grounds of the estate.
The Mirbeau Inn & Spa Beacon would include 85 rooms spread across several buildings, including a handful in the mansion. Most would be inside a new structure that would include spa amenities.
Among its target audiences would be visitors from New York who already come to the area for what would otherwise be day trips, a group that Mirbeau says he has already managed to capture at his Rhinebeck location.
While the property would immediately become Beacon’s largest hotel — and roughly double the number of hotel rooms in the city — it’s located more than a mile south of bustling Main Street.
But developers are having questions before they can proceed with the first phase of the project, which has a completion date of June 2024. For example, like most large projects in Beacon, there is a question of parking – but not the question that one can expect.
“The first time at Beacon, we had an app with more parking (than needed),” Beacon planning board chairman John Gunn joked at last week’s meeting.
While this may seem like a good deal to have, it shows that the city council is prioritizing the historic nature of the property.
“I think it’s a very sensitive and historic site,” urban planner John Clarke told the Mirbeau team.
What is planned?
Mirbeau officially purchased the 64.35-acre property, sometimes called the Howland Estate, in February, after presenting the plans to the planning board in December.
Officially announcing the project last week, Mirbeau promised that the Beacon facility will provide “a gracious sanctuary, restful ambience and interpretation of classic pleasures to engage guests in the pleasure of being truly cared for – allowing them to withdraw and relax”.
At last week’s meeting and in their application materials, the proponents promised to eliminate overgrowth on the ground while preserving existing “historic specimen trees”, including its “famous weeping hemlock”.
The project would be carried out in four phases, the first encompassing the hotel, spa, restaurant and tent event space, in addition to exterior improvements and infrastructure.
An addition is planned for the mansion, which would be renovated and updated while preserving, according to the team, the historic style of the building. The mansion would include “basic hotel facilities”, a 110-seat restaurant and four hotel rooms, while the expansion would include eight “cave” hotel rooms.
An accompanying structure built in 1978 as Craig’s House Sanitarium, which runs parallel to the north and south of Route 9D, would be demolished. In its place, a four-story building covering approximately 105,000 square feet would be erected in a “conform” style to the mansion. The ground floor would be used for the spa and 63 hotel rooms would be spread over the top three floors.
Water gardens, which the developers say are inspired by Monet and are a defining feature of the Mirbeau properties, would be installed in the sloping space behind the two buildings.
Separately, five rental chalets are part of the original plan, just south of the gardens.
The spa, which would be open to the public, would include 21 treatment rooms, steam rooms, saunas, a fitness center and a terrace with “hot pools”, in addition to other features.
The tent event space, which could accommodate approximately 100 attendees, would be accompanied by the existing Dr. Bennet Cottage, which would also be renovated.
The landscape slopes southwest towards Fishkill Creek, which borders the property. Not only are footpaths planned to utilize the wooded landscape beyond the buildings, but developers say the slope will help solve any runoff or flooding issues.
What would be next?
The developers have planned three more development phases, although a timeline for each has not been set. Documents submitted to the planning committee indicate the expected completion date of the final phase in December 2029.
In addition to adding up to 15 rental cabins to the property, the team plans to add:
► A “resort farm,” which would feature lavender, spices and other farm-to-table products. In addition to supplying the restaurant with fresh ingredients, the team plans to open a farm store of approximately 500 square feet open to the public.
► A Wellness and Leisure Centre, which would replace the Tioronda School, located on the southwest corner of the property near a pair of large animal pounds. Amenities there would include trails, tennis kayaking and rest areas; the developers are investigating how it can use an existing pool.
What else needs to be approved?
In its permit application, the Mirbeau team notes that the Estate’s Historic District and Landmark Overlay Zone “permit hotels and hotel accessory uses and structures by special permit from the planning board, provided they are appropriate to the structure(s)/site, compatible with the neighborhood, and are located on a route that can accommodate increased traffic.
And although the team has submitted assessments showing that the property would not have a significant impact on the natural environment, flooding or traffic, the project has yet to go through the state’s environmental review process. and obtain permits and approvals from the State Department of Transportation and the County Health Department. .
The planning council was also concerned about the impact the development would have on the historical aspect of the property, particularly the parking spaces.
While the proposed uses and capacities of the development only require 213 places, Mirbeau’s plans call for 272 in the initial phase, with around 25 more planned for the future phase which would develop the Tioronda School.
The planning committee wondered not only if it was too much, but also its positioning, with many parallels with the 9D road. A section would be immediately in front of the mansion.
Mirbeau’s team told the board that the downward slope of the landscape and the existing trees will ensure that “most of the parking lot will be very well protected.”
This drew Clarke’s argument.
“The whole point of maintaining the public view of the mansion from the street is that we didn’t project it and didn’t put up a lot of landscaping barriers between that entrance and the mansion,” Clarke said. “I think it’s unacceptable to hide the view of the mansion from the public because it’s not going to be a public site. That’s what you’re going to get here.
Clarke suggested removing some of the parking lot because many of those using the spa would already be hotel guests and wouldn’t need a second parking spot.
The planner, in a letter to the planning council and developers, suggested that Mirbeau should also consider:
- the impact on historic views of the mansion, including those to the south, where the building is also visible;
- where there are legacy trees and which trees would be planted or removed;
- an archaeological analysis where there will be new developments;
- the materials and aesthetics used for exteriors and lighting;
- the possibility of adding a connecting sidewalk from Route 9D to the site.
Mirbeau submitted a traffic analysis, which looked at existing traffic on Route 9D and the flow observed at Rhinebeck inside and outside its 50-room site, and concluded that the hotel would not have no significant impact on traffic. However, they are considering adding a left-turn lane on Route 9D north to campus.
In his own letter, John Russo, Beacon’s municipal engineer, noted that plans are still preliminary, but that the county’s health department would have to approve a private water system and that the Department of Transportation of State should approve items such as proposed access. and utility connections.
Mirbeau’s architect, David Bois, noted that this would be the first time Mirbeau had attempted to restore a property. Its other locations are in Albany, Skaneateles and Plymouth, Massachusetts, in addition to Rhinebeck.
And while Bois admitted that adds to the challenge, he said the goal of “bringing the building back to life” is one of the things that excites the team, speaking to the planning board. He pointed to a historic pipe organ inside the mansion as an example of an artifact being restored.
“The site is truly remarkable, to say the least…the site is not to be outdone either,” added fellow architect Henry Thomas. “He has strong, historic bones.”