$80 million renovation of Cranwell resort given green light

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LENOX — Now that the town's Zoning Board of Appeals has approved a revised special permit, it's full speed ahead for the Hyatt/Miraval's $80 million project to renovate and expand the Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort.

The company's recent application sought changes to spotlight and enhance the historic property's mansion. It also calls for a 5,000-square-foot reduction in the footprint of new buildings at the resort.

Under the revised plan, the mansion no longer will serve as a check-in center for guests, as originally outlined in the special permit approved by the ZBA in May 2016, according to Pittsfield attorney F. Sydney Smithers IV of Cain, Hibbard & Myers, which represents Hyatt Hotel Corp.'s MRG CRW Holdings LLC.

"The mansion is going to revert to its historic purpose with 11 hotel rooms, fine dining, entertainment and event space," Smithers told ZBA members at their recent meeting. "It will not be used for registration and will no longer be a reception center."

The Miraval Group completed its $22 million purchase of Cranwell last January. Construction is expected to be in full swing early next year, with estimated completion by May 1, 2019, according to Chevis Hosea, the Miraval Group's senior vice president for construction and development. The resort will remain open during the expansion project.

The revised permit also calls for additional parking nearby to accommodate guests for fine dining, weddings and other special events.

Another improvement will be a conservatory glass installation atop the south-facing mansion terrace. Also, a new terrace will be constructed and an elevator will be installed. Two new guest cottages no longer will be connected by an enclosed pedestrian walkway from the mansion.

Guests will register at the Olmsted Manor building, which will have a new entrance court and "a colonnade to make it more appealing," Smithers said.

Compared with the special permit originally approved by the ZBA, the new plan includes a significant reduction in the size of a new spa and a downsizing of the new Mindfulness and Wellbeing Center, he noted.

The revised permit makes no change in the total number of hotel rooms previously proposed — 148, an increase of 43 over the current total.

A bypass lane is being added to the resort entrance on Lee Road (Route 20) for the convenience of Fairwynds condo residents.

"The owners felt that we were going to be such a huge success with so many Miraval guests that they didn't want to wait in line behind them," Smithers told the ZBA last week.

The west side of the campus includes a new maintenance building, a golf activity center, a golf cart storage structure, parking as approved last year and a pathway to a new tunnel under Route 20 for golfers and their carts. State approval of the tunnel is pending.

"We think all these proposed changes comport with the requirements of the bylaws and benefit the community " Smithers said. "We think the investment to be made by Hyatt, which now owns Miraval, will be substantial."

The company's investment, pegged at $60 million last year, is now put at about $80 million.

While there's no change in access to the resort, Steven Mack of Foresight Land Services in Pittsfield said there are internal changes to entrance drives, improving accessibility to Sloane's Tavern.

Additional parking is planned west of the mansion in connection with expanded programming — a total of 141 spaces, up from 85 new spots approved in last year's special permit. More spaces also will be added adjacent to Sloane's and several other areas.

In all, there will be 529 parking spots on the property, an increase from 414.

A letter from attorney John Gobel, representing owners of the Fairwynds condo communities, said meetings over the past two months have resolved all concerns raised by residents.

Fairwynds at Cranwell and Fairwynds II boards endorse the redesigned project, Gobel wrote. "We think Cranwell-Miraval Hyatt will be good for us and for the community," the letter said.

The revised project also was warmly endorsed by residents of the Coldbrooke South condo community, the ZBA was told.

The ZBA, deciding it didn't need a site visit, voiced enthusiasm for the project.

"I think this a better plan," said board member Ned Douglas. "It's smaller and continues to meet all the qualifications for the good of the community."

"I have no problems with the alterations, it's a nice project, and I will support it," Dr. Clifford Snyder agreed.

"I think there are substantial improvements to the complex in this proposal and, if anything, it better serves the Lenox community by creating better access to the restaurant and the main hall," said alternate member Albert Harper.

Touting the project's compliance with the town's Estate Preservation Bylaw, "which you treat with a great deal of respect," member Robert Fuster Sr. directed his appreciation to the Miraval project team attending the public hearing.

"This application meets all the requirements for the modification of the special permit that's requested," said acting Chairwoman Shawn Leary Considine. "It's done with sensitivity toward the purposes of the estate bylaw in order to protect these kinds of large, historic structures and ensure that when they're developed, it's done so in accord with townspeople's wishes."

Reach correspondent Clarence Fanto at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.


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