A groundbreaking was held Wednesday at Imperial Bath & Spa to mark the beginning of a multi-million dollar renovation project at the once storied bathhouse on Main Street.
The development comes after years of raised hopes from residents that were followed only by stagnation.
Sharon Springs became a destination in the early 1900s thanks to its multiple natural mineral spas, but experienced a roller coaster of highs and lows throughout the rest of the century, eventually becoming down on its luck in the 1970s and 1980s.
For the past 15 years a handful of business owners have been slowly nursing the village — population 544 — back to life by renovating historic hotels and other establishments in the active Lower Main Street District.
Now, after hints at progress for over a decade, Imperial Bath & Spa appears to finally be on the verge of a major renovation.
The resort was bought by the South Korea-based Sharon Springs Inc. in 2004 but closed in 2005. In 2009 the village helped secure a $1 million state development grant, but nothing happened. The company acquired and demolished the nearby dilapidated Washington Hotel in 2013, which some in the village took as a sign of progress, but residents were again disappointed by inaction.
Village officials learned last year that Sharon Springs Inc. had been struggling with internal financial issues, including a $6 million embezzlement scandal, but had recently gotten its house in order and was able to secure enough capital to proceed with renovating Imperial Bath & Spa.
The company presented a restoration plan to village officials last April and began removing asbestos from the premises last May. For the past year Sharon Springs Inc. has worked to get an environmental review and full site plan through various stages of oversight at the local and state levels.
A consultant on the project for Sharon Springs Inc. told The Daily Gazette in February that the company expected to receive final approval for their project shortly. Village officials said the groundbreaking Wednesday marks the start of a $10 million renovation of Imperial Bath & Spa by Sharon Springs Inc.