STAMFORD - For Sale: one seven-story, beautiful, old, historic, iconic hotel on seven acres the community would like to see preserved and utilized, not just for nostalgia’s sake, but once again as a tourism destination.
Needed: someone with enough money to restore the building, which would receive the support of the community, to its former days of regal luxury as the Queen of the Catskills hotel during the grand hotel era.
The former Rexmere Hotel, a landmark for the village of Stamford, which has survived since 1965 as an educational center, is now for sale.
Construction of the Rexmere was completed July 15, 1898 and just had its 115th birthday. It was one of the finest hotels of the era, with fine cuisine , a private golf course, elaborate galas, marching band and parades. Beauty pageants and swimming demonstrations brought thousands of well-to-do patrons to the hotel each summer.
Now the hotel needs someone with a vision similar to that of Dr. Stephen E. Churchill, who often passed by the meadow with its meandering clear stream and imagined the resort he created on 75 acres, along with sister cottages, three lakes, a golf course and amenities attractive to those of the late 1800s.
The new visionary will have to imagine installing modern amenities in what is still a beautiful setting and a grand sturdy shell. There is no golf course, there is no swimming pool, no canoes or croquet wickets, only the unique site with a building which has “incredible potential” for someone who has the where-withal to restore and, perhaps, recreate it.
It could be restored as a hotel, or apartments, or both, according to a recent feasibility study. The cost would range from $184 per square foot for hotel rooms to $75 per square foot for apartments. There is a total of 49,000 square feet, not including the top two floors or the basement.
It could be done in stages, one floor at a time, but it is still a tremendous outlay of money.
The “grand” hotel is on the real estate market for just under $600,000 and has received several inquiries, according to Ben Fenton, agent for Caldwell Banker Timberland Properties.
“I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of interest,” said Fenton.
Actually, a lot of people have expressed interest.
The fear is it will be demolished to make way for a modern facility or a subdivision.
However, there is one quirk about the deed, which Fenton said he has researched. As long as the building remains standing, it may be operated as a commercial property. Should the building come down, it would revert to residential.
“There has been a lot of activity, Most want to bring it back to some sort of housing establishment,” said Fenton. “There are few of these beauties remaining.
I’ve never had a piece of commercial real estate with as much interest as the Rexmere. It is a spectacular building with a rich history.”
The price point is one of the keys he believes, along with the fact it is an interesting building which could be brought back to life.
Linda Stratigos, executive director of the Western Catskills Community Revitalization Corporation, which hired a company to conduct the the feasibility study, is hoping to generate interest once again to find the right person to keep the historic structure standing and utilize it. It could be used as a hotel, an apartment house, or a combination of both. Adding a kitchen would help its use as a place for dining, weddings, meetings, conventions and the like.
The Rexmere Hotel is actually The Cyr Educational Center, named for the late Dr. Frank W. Cyr, Phd., who founded the concept of shared services for rural districts and established the BOCES in Stamford. Cyr, along with Fred P. Murphy, negotiated the idea of turning the historic former hotel into offices for BOCES and the Rural Supplementary Educational Center. The Catskill Mountain Educational Center is the owner of the building and is made up of a board of directors.
The CMEC owns the center and their main income is the rent paid by the Otsego-Northern Catskills Board of Cooperative Educational Services to house its administrative offices. BOCES has vacated the building and the CMEC, without a continuing source of revenue, needs to get out from under the maintenance and operations costs. As long as they own it, it must be used for education.
Larry Bobnick, president of the CMEC, said the building is being advertised for sale, because “We’re not sure how we can keep it as an educational building. We are investigating to see if there is any interest.”
What he does know is the CMEC can’t upkeep it without a steady income. “It is a large building to heat and maintain. We are heating two floors,” he said.
The building is also available to rent. The Friends of Music hold quality, monthly concerts through the summer months. It is rented for proms and weddings and some special events. Just last Sunday, it was the back drop for the Stamford Rotary Club’s annual auto show and the Greater Stamford Area Chamber of Commerce’s pop-up farmers market was set up inside the building. On July 27, the Rexmere will serve as the backdrop for the annual Fireworks, sponsored by the Stamford Fire Department.
CMEC has invested in insulation and new windows. “We would love to see it kept up. That’s why we have it advertised,” said Bobnick.
While ONC-BOCES is continuing to pay rent, but it won’t go on indefinitely. There are two more years left on the agreement.
CMEC held a forum a year ago with an interactive discussion on how the center could best serve the greater Stamford community in the future. The forum invited people to help prioritize possible income sources for the preservation and sustainability of the property.
Some thought the hospitality and culinary arts curricula at SUNY Delhi and SUNY Cobleskill might benefit from a place to operate and train students.
Heidi Yorke, adjunct instructor for Division of Business and Hospitality at State University of New York at Delhi (SUNY Delhi) has indicated the Rexmere “ is a beautiful building that if restored would present itself attractive and unique. If restored as a boutique/resort type hotel, I think it may prove to be quite profitable. Due to the Hotel industry's ‘brand creep’ and service flat lining, there does appear to be a ‘niche’ market for travelers seeking out an ‘experience encompassed’ hotel, where they will receive unique services, amenities and their stay cannot be easily duplicated. All of this I feel the Rexmere has the potential to offer. The labor market for staffing such a property would not be a challenge because of the growth in surrounding towns and SUNY Delhi becoming the mini-Mecca for hospitality experts.”
The concern would be marketing it, because there is no direct market locally.
Building codes might also be an issue, although several items can be "grandfathered" in, code enforcement is pretty relentless.
The CMEC has applied for historic tax credit eligibility, but there has been no word yet on approval.
There are many ideas for the structure and the community is hoping the right person comes along to see this community icon preserved and used.