The Somerset County Improvement Authority (SCIA) is taking steps to ensure that a new luxury hotel and residential community being developed on the historic Natirar estate minimizes its impact on the environment.
As part of that effort, SCIA is teaming up with the borough of Peapack & Gladstone and the project’s developer, Natirar, to “finance environmentally efficient improvements” to the existing buildings, the Ninety Acres restaurant and several additional facilities.
According to the county, the partnership is the first to be awarded funding through the state’s new Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program. The project received a $26 million bond to fund eco-friendly upgrades, like green roofing, specialized lighting, e-glass windows and new HVAC systems.
“The SCIA is providing the financing authority using Somerset County’s low interest rates based on its AAA bond rating with no impact to the County budget; Peapack & Gladstone which passed the required ordinance allowing the program to go forward in their municipality; and the Natirar Resort which commits to make special property tax assessment payments to Peapack & Gladstone to pay off the 30-year loan,” the county said.
After the county’s hospitality industry was hit hard by the pandemic, officials have worked to expand its historical, event and destination tourism to make up for the loss. And once the Natirar Spa & Resort is completed, officials believe it will “be a significant addition to Somerset County’s wedding, health and wellness and farm-to-table tourism markets.”
Following COVID-related delays, work is continuing on the project, which will consist of the newly refurbished Ninety Acres restaurant, a 66-room luxury hotel, a 12,000-square-foot spa, a fitness and wellness center, 24 residential homes and other amenities.
Construction will be completed by 2023, according to Natirar’s website.
Somerset County Commissioner Deputy Director Melonie Marano said, “Somerset County is committed to both expanding our destination tourism industry and protecting our environment, and this C-PACE project with Natirar is a perfect example of how we can do both. Natirar’s fantastic history, stunning open space, new hotel resort and the Ninety Acres restaurant will be an environmentally sensitive draw to people down the street and across the country.”
“Somerset County has a deep commitment to the environment, but also to providing support for our business community,” said SCIA Chair Joel Shain. “The innovative C-PACE program is a great tool to achieve both goals, and I’m proud to work with our partners on the first such project in the Garden State.”
The mansion on the property, which will serve as the foundation for the 66-room Natirar Hotel, was first built when Kate Macy Ladd, an heiress, and her husband, Walter Ladd, acquired more than 500 acres in Somerset County in 1905.
After both owners passed away, the mansion was used as a convalescence center for women until 1983, when the property was sold to King Hassan II of Morocco so that he could be closer to Princeton University, where his sons attended. In 2003, following the king’s death, the property was sold for $22 million to Somerset County, which designated the majority of area as public parkland.
Ninety acres of the property, which included the estate, was then leased in a public-private partnership with the intent to be restored and expanded upon by Bob Wojtowicz, founder and owner of Natirar.
Wojtowicz said, “As Ninety Acres celebrates 13 years of memorable dinners and celebrations, Natirar is moving forward with the renovation of the restaurant and historic mansion, and the creation of a new hotel and resort.”
“The partnership with Somerset County and Peapack & Gladstone on the PACE funding will result in significantly less impact on the environment and far more energy savings in the new Natirar Resort,” he stated.
Peapack & Gladstone Mayor Gregory Skinner said, “We are very happy to have Natirar contributing to our community, and even happier to be able to partner with Somerset County to facilitate these environmentally sustainable additions and renovations. Encouraging green building is simply something we should all be doing, and we’re glad to be part of New Jersey’s first C-PACE project.”