CATSKILL, N.Y. (AP) — Locals looking to land a buzz-worthy, foodie-friendly restaurant in this Hudson River village are offering the right chef a novel deal: Come to Catskill with a killer concept — maybe farm-to-table, gastro-pub or vegetarian — and get space on Main Street rent free for a year.
The hope is the right restaurant will give the growing number of downriver arrivals from New York City an attractive place to eat. And maybe it will accelerate the kind of gentrification that has revived other river towns.
"I don't know what the actual spark will be, but I certainly think this will help ignite whatever's going to happen," said Nina Sklansky, who belongs to a local group promoting Catskill as a funky, affordable place. "If people are going to linger, they're going to want to eat."
Catskill, on the west bank of the Hudson about 100 miles north of New York City, has a movie house with a marquee on Main Street along with a columned courthouse and places to window shop. With an average family income of $55,000, the village has kept its humble roots. But like a lot of corners of the valley, the village of 4,000 is changing as city people migrate north or buy second homes.
In the last year especially, local real estate broker David King said he has noticed more 30-something couples with toddlers from Brooklyn. Meanwhile, there are plans to convert an old commercial site into a haven for artisans.
If Catskill is showing green shoots of gentrification, it's nowhere near the full bloom on display across the river in the city of Hudson. The once-tumbledown city is today is loaded with antique shops, art spaces and, yes, the sort of restaurants that get described glowingly in The New York Times as "a fever dream of luxury and rural kitsch."
"God forbid if the place turns into something like Hudson, but a little bit of it would be nice," Sklansky said.
Sklansky, a copywriter who moved upstate a decade ago, is working on a privately funded marketing campaign for the village with a group of like-minded residents called the Catskill Action Team. She helped cook up the restaurant offer this summer.
Team member Andrea Lowenthal is offering the deal on the ground floor of a building she owns on Main Street, the site of an old luncheonette with a black marble service counter and art deco fixtures. The new restaurateur would have to pay for some capital improvements to get the free rent.
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