SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The state will spend $2.2 million this year to convert a grand, but long-vacant, bathhouse in Saratoga Spa State Park into a lifelong learning and well-being center.
Plans to restore the popular park's Roosevelt II bathhouse are the largest part of $2.5 million in work announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday.
The state's commitment to restore the bathhouse is a major step forward for plans by Coesa, a non-profit company started in 2015 by two Saratoga Springs attorneys.
The bathhouses were built in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's Great Depression public works programs. While another bathhouse still operates, the Roosevelt II building has been empty for many years.
"We are very excited by our public-private partnership with Coesa to build on Saratoga Spa State Park's tradition as a destination for health and wellness," said state Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey.
The building's history is part of its appeal, said Coesa co-founder Stephanie Ferradino.
"Long before Saratoga was developed, the Native Americans were coming here for the healing waters," Ferradino said on Wednesday. "President Roosevelt understood that this was a place of healing, just as the Native Americans did, and we're bringing that back."
Cuomo said the center, which will offer wellness classes and host guest speakers, could become a new visitor destination.
"The project is another major step in the renewal of this jewel in our park system and a cornerstone of the region's tourism industry," Cuomo said in a prepared statement.
Under the plan, the state will spend $2.2 million on renovations to convert the 1930s Georgian Revival bathhouse into space suitable for Coesa and additional future tenants. When complete, the 18,000-square-foot building will have a new lobby, new public restrooms, updated utilities and a space for the Coesa Wellness Center to lease and furnish.
"It's a fantastic, fantastic structure," Ferradino said. "It's really decrepit inside, but you can see how it is going to come back."
Coesa, whose name is adopted from the name of one of the state park's mineral springs and picnic pavilions, plans to offer classes and programs to inspire and support people looking for a healthier life and healthier world. Programs on leadership, mindfulness, workplace culture and therapeutic yoga teacher training are all part of the plan.
Ferradino said the state expects to have the restored building ready for Coesa to move into by October, so the space can be outfitted and, hopefully, open by year's end. Coesa has launched a campaign to raise $1 million to furnish its space and has hired an executive director. It has also established an operating fund and endowment.
The Coesa center will focus on offering programs outside the Saratoga summer tourism season, Ferradino said, because it won't have housing for those who visit for programs -- as some other wellness centers do -- and hotel rooms in Saratoga in the summer can be both scarce and expensive.
"We will focus a lot of our attention on the low season because we will not be doing any housing, and people will be staying in local hotels and eating in restaurants," she said.
Ferradino expects people will travel to the Spa City for the programs that will be offered.
"Certainly our demographic will attract people from the Capital Region, but also from New York and Montreal and Boston," she said. "Our proximity to Albany International Airport means we may draw some speakers nationally."
In addition to the renovations at the bathhouse, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will spend $345,000 to rehabilitate the roofs, masonry and plaster ceilings of other park buildings, including the Hall of Springs and the park's administrative building.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly said she once worked at the bathhouses, and she welcomes the renovation work and the Coesa center's plans.
"As they revitalize the historic structures and create an opportunity for people to 'create a healthy self and world,' it is priceless to our community," Kelly said.
The renovations are part of Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 program, which is expected to invest $90 million in the state's park system this year. A decade-long park investment program the governor initiated in 2011 has recently paid for the new "Creekside Classroom" in Spa State Park and for a project that will open a new bathhouse at the Peerless Pool this summer.