Project plans for bistro, wellness retreat are under Adirondack Park Agency review
By Gwendolyn Craig
A downstate couple, who purchased the former Paleface ski resort and Bassett Mountain estate in Jay, are hoping for Adirondack Park Agency and state Department of Health approvals in time for a partial opening of their planned bistro and wellness retreat by mid-June.
Owner Richard Vidal said he’s confident the APA process will go smoothly. Vidal is applying for a new commercial use permit before the agency, which oversees public and private development in the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park. His application is currently out for public comment through June 1.
To submit a comment, go to: https://apa.ny.gov/Hearings/ApaCommentPopup.cfm?ProjectNumber=2023-0065.
In October, Vidal and his husband Matthew purchased the 1,200 acres and 11,000-square-foot mountaintop home, once the offices and retreat of Adirondack Life magazine, for $6.5 million. A former Essex County ski resort, Paleface opened in 1961 and closed about two decades later.
Richard Vidal, who has a background in healthcare and is a senior data scientist at Google, also owns and operates Cascada Farm in the Hudson Valley. The Vidals hope the Paleface/Bassett Mountain estate, which they have renamed NewVida Preserve, will be an extension of the outdoor experiences, farming, dining and wellness activities that they provide in Rhinebeck.
“A lot of our customers are from the city, and we’re providing them with an outlet to decompress,” Richard Vidal said. “Here’s this place that’s been dormant for nearly 30 years, but has been maintained beautifully by the prior family and has been preserved. Its natural environment is just vast and beautiful.”
Jay Town Supervisor Matthew Stanley said it is nice to see the place will be back open to the public.
Stanley’s town in the northeastern Adirondacks has seen some attention lately. With a population of 2,500 people, Jay is also the proposed site of a luxury resort and second-home complex of mansions and townhomes along the Ausable River. Developer Eric Stackman has been working his way through the APA’s large-scale subdivision permit process since the fall of 2021. Unlike Stackman’s proposal, Vidal is working with existing buildings and roads.
Eventually, Vidal said, he would like to create different “hubs on the property connected via an interior trail system.” He does not want to “overdevelop the area,” he added.
Stanley did not have any comment on the particular projects, but said he thought development is good for the town. He and residents are concerned, however, about a lack of affordable housing and a smaller workforce. He hopes to address those issues in a new economic development committee. The town is also drafting a comprehensive plan and is working on applications for downtown revitalization grants. Residents, he said, are divided when it comes to new development.
“I know there’s definitely a portion of the population who’ve seen things the same way for 25 years, and they want to see things the same for the next 25,” Stanley said. “My life here in the town of Jay, things have been changing the whole time. Unfortunately I’ve watched our Main Street really go from a thriving Main Street down to one or two businesses that are viable.”
Vidal is excited to provide both residents and tourists a new dining option and destination.
NewVida Preserve will include a boutique hotel and clubhouse. Some visitors may purchase memberships, which Vidal likened to an elevated gym membership. It would include a culinary program, yoga, massage, meditation and outdoor recreation. He is also planning a daytime bistro, evening dinner spot and a mixology program. He hopes to open the bistro and wellness center on June 15 and lodging on July 1.
Vidal has met with local business owners in the region and is concerned about the available workforce and affordable housing. He has hired four full-time employees including a chef and groundskeeper, but he will be putting out ads for other positions this month. Too many young people, Vidal said, are moving out of the Adirondacks but he’s hoping they’ll want to work at his establishment.
“Tourism in this area is quirky and volatile,” Vidal said, pointing to the area’s seasonality and remoteness. But he also thinks Jay is unique from park hamlets like Lake Placid where buildings are more concentrated and “you can’t find a 2,000-acre property anymore.” He’s also partnering with local businesses and restaurants, with plans for guest chef appearances and other collaborations.
Adirondack policy, in plain speak.
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