Picture it now: The Imperial Baths and Spas and the Adler Hotel (where a teen-aged Ed Koch bussed tables during the Summer), returned to their former glory, bustling with tourists, lit up with life once again. Picture Main Street’s shops and restaurants overflowing with people. Streets so crowded with pedestrians you can barely squeeze through them.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Sharon Springs was the preferred resort locale for a who’s who of New York’s elite, cutely referred to as the “knickerbocracy”. Later, many Jews came to Sharon Springs to bath in the healing springs after the Holocaust. But into the 1950s and 1960s, interest in Sharon Springs began to wane heavily, and soon the only patrons of the massive, stately hotels and spas were the termites.
But a plan recently proposed by a group of New York City-based Korean investors with experience in the tourism industry hopes to change all that. What started out as a plan to invest $10 million dollars for renovations of two hotels has expanded into a $30 million dollar planned investment that would renovate most of the dilapidated resort facilities in the village. If these plans are carried out, which is a huge “if”, it could spell drastic change for this tiny rural village.
By and large, that change would be positive, a virtual rebirth. However, current residents see more than just a local renaissance in the making. They see cause for concern. High among these concerns are the potential for gentrification and rapid unmanaged growth. If there is a resurgence of interest in the Sharon Springs area, will it mean development along the scenic Route 20 corridor? If there is an influx of new residents, what will happen to local housing prices? Will the people living in Sharon Springs presently be able to afford to live in a renovated Sharon Springs? Can Sharon Springs be revitalized without dislocating its most vulnerable residents?
These are questions that deserve answers. A sustainable community that meets the needs of all of its citizens should be the goal that leaders aspire to. Any development or “progress” that fails to recognize this, is no progress at all. Revitalization should not come at the expense of displacing poor people.