AUBURN — The Inns of Aurora is renovating the Shakelton House at 418 Main St. to become its fifth inn and asked the county for a tax abatement for the project during a Cayuga County Industrial Development Agency meeting on Tuesday.
The Inns purchased the former funeral home about three years ago and decided that the best use for the building is to create another inn.
"We've considered it for different things, but this is the one that I think makes absolutely the most sense for us," said Sue Edinger, the chief operating officer of the inns. "We are very excited."
"We're converting a mansion into beautiful guestrooms," added Ted Kinder, the project manager who is a consultant to the Inns from MCK Building Associates Inc. He added that the inn will also include common spaces, nice dining rooms, sitting rooms and patios.
Edinger said that when the Inns started in 2003, the hope was always to get to the 50 or 60 room mark, and they will be in that sweet spot with the addition of 12 rooms in the Shakelton House. Especially in the summer when the inns host "a tremendous number of weddings" — they are already booking into 2020 — there are often not enough overnight accommodations for guests.
"Weddings are a big business for us," Edinger said, "it's a stunning place to have a wedding, but we need more rooms, so this is an important project."
The new inn will operate similar to how the E.B. Morgan House and how the Rowland House does now, Edinger said.
When presenting to the CCIDA, Edinger explained that many of the beautiful and historic buildings in Aurora are in poor shape, and the owner — Pleasant Rowland — feels strongly that the buildings need to be restored rather than torn down.
The addition of this inn will also help the Inns of Aurora get "to a stage of profitability where it will succeed in the future. We're not quite there yet, we're getting close," Edinger said.
The Inns of Aurora is requesting a tax abatement from the county for materials during the construction period, which would save the Inns an estimated $360,000, as well as a standard 10-year pilot tax abatement agreement that would save the Inns a bit over $200,000 over the 10-year period. If the county were to approve the requests, the Inns would receive a total tax exemption of $560,360 by the end of the pilot period.
"Each one of these steps is a really important step for us," Edinger said. "For us to be able to create successful businesses, we've got to be able to step into the tax situation."
In 2014 the county approved a tax abatement for the Inns' Rowland House project, and Edinger said that support was a "huge emotional piece" for Rowland's willingness to continue to invest in Aurora. She expects the same thing will be true for this project.
"With the type of restorations we're doing if you went from where we are at a tax stand point now to where we would be, it would make it almost impossible to make this a successful business," Edinger said.
The 2017 full market value of the 1.4 acre property in question was $346,939, and Executive Director of the County Economic Development Agency Tracey Verrier estimates, based off of the other inns, that the property's value will rise to $1.6 million post renovations.
The hard costs for the materials alone are in the $4 million range, Kinder and Edinger said, so the Inns are making significant investments and are hoping to have more time to step into the higher taxes.
The plan is to begin construction this May, and have people staying in the new rooms in May 2019, Kinder said.
The CCIDA board unanimously voted to schedule a public hearing, and if everything moves along as planned there will be a vote taken on the tax abatement requests in the next regular CCIDA meeting on March 20.