Friar Tuck Inn's new owner has big plans for 70s-era resort
Catskill hotel/convention center would serve as 'mindfulness' themed enclave
CATSKILL — The long-dormant Friar Tuck Inn, which was an iconic resort in the 1970s but has since fallen into disrepair, has been purchased by a New York City businesswoman who is planning a “Mindfulness” resort with a spa, horseback riding, hunting and fishing, cross country skiing and a possible waterpark as tourist draws.
Queens real estate agent Elena Fu and another unnamed investor quietly paid $5.8 million for the approximately 200-acre property in March from L&H Resort System, which purchased the property out of foreclosure in 2011 for $2.4 million.
While many of the long-term plans such as the waterpark are tentative and will have to come after basic infrastructure renovation, they hope to open 120 rooms by March, said Thomas Zawadski, director of business development and finance at the Buffalo-based Savarino Companies, which is working with Fu to redevelop the property.
Eventually, they could invest between $60 million and $100 million in the property, he said.
As well as renovations, they want to turn a group of free-standing cabin-like units, which had been sold as timeshares, into a retail and dining center on the grounds.
In the center of that they want to place an ice skating rink that could serve as a roller rink during the summer.
Operated by New York City restaurateur Salvatore “Ricky” Caridi and his cousin Ross Caridi in the 1970s, the 376-room hotel resort boomed in those days despite its relatively isolated location near the intersection of Routes 32 and 23A outside the village of Catskill.
The resort has 52,000 square feet of exhibition, meeting and banquet space as well as two outdoor pools and in indoor pool.
The resort hosted large conventions for groups like the Sons of Italy, staged boxing matches and concerts with headliners such as Tom Jones, who performed there in the 1990s in the resort’s “Buckingham Palace” theater.
Eventually though, as the Catskills fell out of favor as a resort destination, Friar Tuck hit financial problems including tax liens.
Zawadski said the recent real estate boom in the Hudson Valley and Catskills is bringing a turnaound to tourism in the area.
Much of that stems from the COVID-19 pandemic, which is prompting New York City residents to seek upstate homes.
“What we’re experiencing now, is the Catskills are kind of reigniting again,” said Zawadski. “They are being rediscovered by people from New York
“That area had a pretty good summer along with Lake George,” Sawadski added.
Yu is also working with the Savarino group in Buffalo to redevelop what was that city’s AM&A department store into housing and retail space.
They had earlier looked at raising money through the federal EB-5 visa program for that project.
In that, foreign nationals can receive a U.S. visa if they invest $900,000 in a new business that will create jobs.
Zawadzki said they may in the future seek financing for part of Friar Tuck through that program.
For now, the focus at Friar Tuck will be rebuilding basic infrastructure, which could mean removing asbestos and updating the resort’s 70s-era self-contained water and sewer system. “It’s almost like rebuilding a small town,” he said.
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