Nearly two years after announcing his split from fine dining icon Eleven Madison Park and the Make It Nice restaurant group, details have finally emerged on restaurateur Will Guidara’s next project, and it appears to be bringing EMP-level luxury to upstate New York.
Guidara is reportedly in contract to purchase Migdale Castle, part of a sprawling 350-acre property in the town of Washington, near Poughkeepsie. He is hoping to transform the castle into a luxury hotel similar to other swanky rural resorts like Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, and has proposed two restaurants, an indoor pool and spa, and private residences among other amenities. The Times Union first reported on this development.
But even before the project has gotten off the ground, the hotel is already facing stiff opposition from more than 300 neighbors within the village of Milbrook — the castle is located within the village of Milbrook which is a part of the town of Washington — including singer and actress Bette Midler, according to the Times Union. Residents have officially filed complaints with the town of Washington in opposition to the development, and many are lawyering up for any impending challenges, according to the report. Guidara did not immediately return a request for comment on his project or the opposition to it.
Guidara reportedly has a clause in his sale agreement that allows him to back out from buying the property if the town doesn’t approve his project. At present, the site is zoned for residential use and Guidara is seeking a special amendment that would enable it for commercial use. Local residents fear that the project will be similar to the nearby, uber-exclusive Silo Ridge development which counts Tom Brady among its homeowners, and that it will leave out local residents from getting any of the benefits associated with the development.
Washington Town officials initially appeared in favor of the project, according to the Times Union, with town supervisor Gary Ciferri saying during a February 25 town board meeting that the hotel project “will bring jobs, it will bring tax revenue, sales tax, hotel tax and it will bring people into the village, helping businesses and the community.” The town board wanted to be the lead agency on the project, but the local zoning board of appeals denied that request saying it needed more information on the development. Ciferri is no longer as sure about the project and worries the whole process might end up becoming “very costly,” according to the Times Union.
Guidara — who has been living in Kingston, New York since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and doesn’t intend to move back to New York City, according to the story — initially presented this plan to the town of Washington’s planning board in early February. He’s since been presenting the development at other town meetings held online, though some local residents have complained of not getting access to these meetings.
There’s still an extensive public review process before the project is approved or rejected, and it could be more than a year until it gets off the ground, if it secures approval. The project is once again up for a hearing at a planning board meeting tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.
Following his split with EMP and Daniel Humm in 2019, Guidara started getting ready to launch three new restaurants along with a new restaurant group in NYC, according to the Times Union. Guidara revealed at one of the local meetings in Washington that he was set to sign leases for the new spots in NYC right before the pandemic-related shutdown, but ultimately abandoned those plans as a result of the shutdown. Guidara is now reportedly based full time in Kingston, and part of the impetus behind this project is to invest in the surrounding areas. “I’m not a NYC developer that’s looking to do something here and run it from afar,” Guidara said during a planning board meeting in February, according to the Times Union. “I want to become a part of the community, and I want to make sure what I build happens for Millbrook and not to Millbrook.”
This marks the first major project for the restaurateur whose efforts helped establish Eleven Madison Park as one of the best restaurants in the world. Migdale was built in 1927 by industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s only daughter Margaret Carnegie Miller. The entire property was listed for $20 million by the billionaire art dealer Wildenstein family last fall.