CARMEL, N.Y. - Town and county officials say that a $100 million project that will bring an internationally known distillery to the town of Carmel will provide a boost to the local economy and add hundreds of new jobs.
Representatives for Alexandrion Holdings LTD (Alexandrion Group), a Romanian spirits producer, appeared before the Planning Board earlier this month seeking site plan approval to convert the Paladin Center at 39 Seminary Hill Road in Carmel—the former home of Guideposts—into a distillery that will produce premium spirits such as gin, vodka, whiskey, cognac, brandy and possibly others.
County Executive MaryEllen Odell said discussions about the project began in July of last year when Nawaf Salameh, CEO of Alexandrion, announced he wanted to bring a distillery to New York.
“It is a great project,” Odell said. “They came to look at the site and then looked at other opportunities and came back to us.”
Odell said that she and other stakeholders, which included members of the Planning Board, Supervisor Ken Schmitt and members of the state Economic Development Council, had a business lunch with Salameh and members of his family three weeks ago.
“It looks like the town of Carmel is willing to embrace it and the New York State folks are excited to see that this project comes to pass,” Odell said. “I knew it would be something we wanted to see happen, but we have to go through the process.”
Odell said the project is welcome because it will provide a much-needed fiscal shot in the arm to the town.
“The town of Carmel has a 96 percent residential tax base—4 percent is commercial,” she said. “As taxpayers, that is unsustainable. And this adds a tourism piece. We look at it as a source point for people to come in and spend money from outside the county, which is much needed.”
Odell said the business is expected to create 400 jobs.
“And that is very important when we get to look at funding from the state,” she said. “That is why they are working so closely with us.”
Odell said one of the reasons Salameh chose the Carmel location is that the 13-acre hilltop site reminded him of the location of his home-country distillery in Romania.
“If you look at the fact that this company is looking to come to Putnam County and including us in an international [project], no one can make the argument Putnam County has not been made attractive [to investors]. We have the infrastructure, transportation, good schools, beautiful lakes, and it is a great place to raise a family. Our priorities line up with theirs. This is a perfect partnership.”
Councilman Jonathan Schneider said that one of the reasons Alexandrion chose Carmel was because of the education level of the workforce in the area, in addition to the tourism aspect and ease of access to the site.
In papers filed with the Planning Board, Alexandrion reps said the exterior envelope of the existing buildings would remain much as they are. Physical changes would be done primarily to enhance the exterior appearance and allow for the technical operation of the distillery production process.
To assist production activities, there will also be support services, offices and employee welfare areas. Additionally, the company plans to host guided tours through the production process areas and have a visitor center.
“The visitor center is an important part of any distillery as it helps to promote the brands produced and provide an opportunity for aficionados and connoisseurs of spirits…to see firsthand the production process,” the planning documents states. “Most importantly, for the operation of the distillery’s inception and development, it provides a substantial portion of the income for the business as production and sales are ramped up and cask whiskey, cognacs, and single malts are being aged for later sale.”
The visitor center will house a gift shop, tasting area and bar/terrace for enjoying the view of the lake and surrounding area of the site.
The planning documents say work on the project will break down into two categories: new buildings and structures and modifications and expansions to the existing buildings.
The new buildings will be primarily for elements that support production operations, including four storage silos for grains, one draft holding vessel for holding the waste solid material from the mash process, and a large ground-mounted water storage tank.
Additionally, there would be improvements made to the existing roads on the site. The driveway closest to Seminary Hill Road at the front will be widened and improved to provide for access to a parcel of land to the south that will be developed by the current landowner as part of the agreement for the sale of the land.
An existing building will be increased in size in two areas. The first will add a second floor to the single-level structure. The 12,700-square-foot addition will serve as the visitor center and be the primary point of access for visitors. The second involves a slight expansion at the front of an existing three-story main building facing Seminary Hill Road. The front area of this building will be converted to the pot still area where the large copper pots will be located for the distillation of whiskeys.
The planned operation of the facility is slated to be a 24-hour, five-days-a-week operation, Monday through Friday. The operation will have an estimated total of six to eight inbound and outbound trucks per day that will utilize the eastern access drive to and from Route 6.
Odell said if the planning process moves along as expected, work could begin at the site sometime this summer.