Suitor aims to purchase, expand Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort in Lenox
LENOX — Just one year after Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort changed hands for $18 million, a prospective new owner is proposing a major expansion of the 105-room facility.
The well-known Miraval spa resort group has a purchase-and-sale agreement to acquire a majority ownership of the facility from CampGroup LLC, which operates four Berkshire summer camps and L D Builders, which also owns the mixed-use Lenox Commons development and four condominium clusters in Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee and Great Barrington.
Miraval's potential ownership option was confirmed by attorney F. Sydney Smithers of Cain Hibbard & Myers, the long-established Pittsfield law firm.
But the purchase would go through only if the Zoning Board of Appeals approves Miraval's application to modify Cranwell's existing special permit and also signs off on a zoning variance. There are also several less significant conditions attached to the purchase-and-sale option, Smithers said.
Cranwell's current special permit by allows for 41 more units to be added to the resort.
According to a source familiar with the project but not authorized to speak for the developer, Miraval intends to spend $20 million to $30 million on the resort if the permits are approved.
The application was filed late last week at Town Hall by CRW Holdings LLC, a Delaware-based company doing business as Miraval/Lenox.
It estimates a $1.1 million windfall for the town in development fees, including water and sewer hookup charges, building permits and other charges. The developer also projects an annual influx of $1.3 million into Town Hall from sales, property and lodging taxes.
Steven A. Rudnitsky, president and CEO of the Denver-based Miraval Group, told The Eagle via email that the group chose Cranwell for a number of reasons, including that research showed the New England region was a prime target for such a resort. And he said the campus and facilities are well-suited for Miraval's needs.
"We fell in love with the history and architecture of Cranwell and the surrounding beauty of the Berkshire Hills," he wrote, "and the region's deep-rooted tradition as a retreat and sanctuary for music and the arts can play a role in the development of our wellness programming.
The application states that Miraval proposes to complete the previously approved expansion at Cranwell, "creating a world-class resort by renovating and repurposing existing structures, adding a new Spa with Mindfulness and Wellbeing buildings, and constructing a new Guest Cottage."
The existing spa would become a Fitness and Education Building, renovated to host fitness activities and instructional classes.
In all, the developer proposes to construct five new buildings: Guest Cottage, Activity, Spa, Mindfulness and Wellbeing.
Parking and driveways would be reconfigured throughout the property.
A tunnel for pedestrians and golf carts under Lee Road (Route 20) is also proposed. The tunnel is described as "a critical element of the recreational programs intended to be offered by Miraval to resort guests."
The Cranwell property includes land to the west of the road that currently houses the golf course driving range.
The application states that the company's engineers have been working with the state Department of Transportation for the permits needed to construct the tunnel.
The project also calls for enclosed, connecting walkways "so that guests may freely walk among the buildings in any weather conditions," according to the application.
Extensive landscaping is also planned, including a "main corridor of gardens" surrounded by the resort buildings.
The Cranwell Mansion would remain the center of the resort, with a new arrival courtyard, along with proposed renovations to the lobby, dining and kitchen areas.
The Lenox Planning Board will review the proposal during its meeting at 6 p.m. July 26, while the Zoning Board of Appeals is slated to consider it at 7 p.m. Aug. 3.
According to the developer, "the renovated resort has been designed to resemble a country estate in the tradition of New England summer 'cottages,' replete with outbuildings and support structures."
The Miraval-Lenox project is intended to replicate the Miraval Arizona resort in Tucson, and the Miraval Life in Balance Spa at Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California.
The expansion would yield 148 guest rooms, up from the current 105, as well as the existing 36 condominium units known as FairWynds at Cranwell.
The primary expansion involves construction of a Guest Cottage with 52 rooms, 11 more than allowed for a new building under the existing special permit. The room count elsewhere would be reduced slightly as part of the special permit modification.
"The Guest Cottage has been designed to resemble multiple smaller residences in the tradition of supporting buildings at a great estate," the application states.
According to Miraval, the project would have "little if any impact on town services, including water, sewer, fire protection and other services."
But the completed, expanded resort would employ an additional 100 people, Miraval stated. During slower winter months, some employees would be offered spots at the company's Tucson resort. Cranwell currently employs about 300 full- and part-time staffers.
Miraval's expansion and renovations would "greatly improve the property, increase Lenox's reputation as a vacation and resort destination and add to the town's tax base," the application states. The existing public golf course would be open to town residents on a greens fee or membership basis.
A study prepared by Fuss & O'Neill engineers states that traffic flow and safety would be improved at the resort. Guests would be likely to remain at Miraval during their stay, "resulting in very few trips and additional traffic."
Minimal environmental impact is projected, according to the application.
"Programming at the resort will be focused on education and physical and mental well-being," the developer stated.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
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