A new nonprofit group sees promise in an architecturally grand but long-empty bathhouse at Saratoga Spa State Park.
The Roosevelt II building, with its brick arches and enormous Grecian columns, is as visually impressive as any of the buildings in the spa’s great bath complex — and the organization, Coesa Inc., hopes it could be thriving again, as a modern health and wellness center.
But it’s going to take more than $500,000 to get the building into shape, and Coesa this week filed a state funding application for an initial $300,000 to restore the lobby, get the bathrooms working again, and establish the first 2,000 square feet of meeting space for yoga groups. The Saratoga Springs City Council voted last week to support the group’s application.
“The building is not habitable. It’s been vacant for more than 30 years, so it’s in significant disrepair,” said Stephanie Ferradino, a local land use attorney and the president of Coesa, Inc., named for a newly re-established mineral spring within the park on the southern edge of Saratoga Springs.
Coesa hopes to have funding for the work within the next year, and have a wellness center up and running within five years, said Elizabeth Coreno, a Saratoga Springs attorney and board member who is the group’s secretary. “The idea of adoptive reuse goes along with our whole philosophy,” Coreno said. “The bones of the building are terrific. It’s just a matter of working with the state. Ultimately, it’s a partnership.”
The 18,000-square-foot building sits to the south of the Spa State Park administrative building, and across a grassy lawn from Roosevelt I, which remains a working bathhouse. The entire complex was completed in 1934, one of the lasting public works projects built during the Great Depression, intended to help people take advantage of the mineral water springs that have drawn those seeking health benefits since the Iroquois discovered it in about the 14th century. The entire spa complex is a designated National Historic Landmark for its grandeur.
The buildings are named for Franklin D. Roosevelt, who believed Saratoga could have European-style spas, and began work toward the goal when he was governor, though he was president by the time the complex was completed.
Ferradino and Coreno, both practitioners of yoga, started thinking seriously about the idea of rehabilitating the building a year ago. Long-term, they see the building as having the potential to be a popular wellness retreat center, like the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, or the Omega Wellness Center in Rhinebeck. Those centers are costly because people room there during retreats, but the Coesa members believe their center could be less expensive, with attendees staying in Saratoga Springs hotels.
“Saratoga Springs offers a natural synergy to a holistic wellness and retreat center due to its healing springs, available hotel space, and terrific downtown with easy walkability for attendees,” Ferradino said.
Coesa is already conducting yoga and other classes on the park grounds, under a temporary permit from the state. Next week, it will start a Wednesday evening three-week “Yoga in the Park” program as a fundraiser for their plans.
Classes will be held at 6:45 p.m. on the lawn in front of the Administration Building. Ann Biasetti will lead Aug. 5, Nini Gridley Aug. 12, and Kim Beekman Aug. 19. The cost is $10, but participants will be encouraged to give $20 to help with fundraising. They should bring their own mats and props.
The group is on Facebook at “coesainthepark,” or can be emailed at [email protected]
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