ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH, PEEKSKILL-STYLE
When you talk with developer Martin Ginsburg about his newest development in Peekskill, his excitement is apparent. He talks about how it will help make the city a tourist destination and a “gateway” to the Hudson River Highlands and upstate New York.
He recently completed the Fort Hill Apartments and is now finishing the Abbey Inn, which will be the fifth project he has brought to Peekskill. He says Number 6 may be his most important, as he looks to transform the area around the city’s railroad station at Riverfront Green.
As an architect and lover of art, the head of Ginsburg Development Companies (GDC) says his approach to new development is different from others in his trade, who, he says, tend to focus on the “easiest and fastest way to make the most money.”
For now, Ginsburg is focused on putting the finishing touches on The Abbey Inn & Spa, and its Apropos Restaurant, the opening of which has been delayed by the Covid-19 crisis.
SOLID AS A ROCK
The Abbey Inn site is perched on a unique geological landmark that’s highly visible to motorists traveling north on Route 9. It’s hard to miss the huge, solid-rock mountain rising from the river, with historic St. Mary’s Chapel & Convent buildings peeking above the tree line.
The elevated site is now home to Fort Hill Park, which includes more than 50 acres donated by Ginsburg to the city. It features more than a mile of hiking trails, including a cemetery of the Sisters of St. Mary’s, and Revolutionary War redoubts overlooking the once-militarily strategic bend in the Hudson River. Some artifacts from the Revolutionary War era were uncovered and will be exhibited in the lobby of the Abbey Inn.
“I work very hard to discover what is the best way to develop each unique site,” Ginsburg told River Journal/River Journal North.
“Fort Hill was a particular challenge because it is almost a solid-rock mountain. We wanted to restore the historic Chapel and Convent of the Sisters of St. Mary’s into a world-class inn, spa and restaurant, preserving the geological integrity of the mountain. Our goal was for it to look like it’s always been there.”
WALK THIS WAY
The location is a relatively short walk of a few blocks to Main Street in downtown Peekskill. The residents of Fort Hill Apartments and Inn guests can walk or bike to the downtown and the waterfront, though Ginsburg added “coming back up the mountain would require a lot more effort”.
Among design elements Ginsburg and staff used to distinguish the project is to cluster the apartment buildings in a quadrangle around a rocky, landscaped center court. The architectural style of the apartments is a contemporary version of the historic stone and brick look of the chapel and convent.
The rocky character of the site “helped inform the landscaping and finishing of areas around the buildings,” says Ginsburg.
For example, the community swimming pool, with sun deck terrace, was shaped by the rocks and a rock cliff was contoured so that a cascading fountain was created, adjoining the pool and barbeque area. Nearby, a pond was expanded as part of the site drainage program, and fountains were added, as was marine life.
MORE TRAILS AHEAD
At Fort Hill Park, trails were extended so one can walk past the historic cemetery and visit two Revolutionary War redoubts, with parts of the original rock structure still in place. The trails are scheduled to be further expanded next winter (COVID-19 allowing). They will encircle the entire mountain, with river views in all directions.
A key feature of the Abbey Inn is the creation of a level court separating the convent, now the Inn, from the chapel, converted to a event space. The court has a dragon koi pond and paths leading to an eyeful of plantings and sculptures.
“We created magic at the Abbey Inn,” said Ginsburg, “by renovating an historic building where the new uses of public spaces and guest rooms look as if they were designed to be there from the day the cornerstone was laid in the early 1800’s.
As is its practice at all GDC projects, there are contemporary paintings by name artists, as well as a permanent photo exhibit of the Hudson River from its source in the Adirondacks to New York Harbor.
“Right now,” said Ginsburg, “Covid-19 is limiting the use of this new destination on the Hudson, but it is an accomplishment of which I am proud.”