The newest owner of the Redstone Castle feels optimistic the surrounding communities will be pleased to hear he wants to turn the town’s centerpiece into a retreat where the focus will be on health and wellness rather than weddings and special events.
Stephane De Baets will have a better understanding of their sentiment after he meets with members of the Crystal Valley Caucus at 7 o’clock tonight at the Church at Redstone, 213 Redstone Blvd.
The gathering will come after Glenn Horn, the project planner working with De Baets, submitted a land-use application in June with the county outlining De Baets’ objectives for the property. The castle would operate as a destination resort under the banner of RAKxa Wellness, which opened its first luxury spa and medical retreat in December 2020 on the island of Bang Krachao located on the Chao Phraya River across from Bangkok, Thailand. DeBaets and his partners own and operate RAKxa Wellness.
De Baets owns the Redstone Castle and other structures sitting on roughly 150 acres of land by the Crystal River and off Highway 133, approximately 16 miles from Carbondale. Redstone is an unincorporated community with shops, retail shops and homes, and the Tudor-style castle has been its centerpiece ever since construction was completed on it in 1903. Then, it opened as the Cleveholm Manor under the ownership of oil baron John C. Osgood.
Nearly 120 years later, De Baets bought the castle for $11.75 million in April 2022 from Steve and April Carver, who acquired it at auction with a winning bid of $2.2 million in November 2016.
The Carvers’ proposal to turn the castle into a boutique hotel and wedding venue drew a chorus in opposition from the Redstone community — whose chief concerns were the traffic and noise the venue would generate during special events — when the couple in 2018 presented a complex plan involving the formation of a special zoning district and a master plan for the site.
Even so, Pitkin County commissioners that year approved the Redstone Castle Village Lodge Preservation Master Plan, a resolution that designated the castle, carriage house, hose house, garden shed, gazebo, dog kennels and the entrance gate on Pitkin County’s historic register. Some of those structures already were on the National Register of Historic Places, including the castle, which received the distinction in 1971.
“They got an approval from the county for the village lodge preservation master plan for the Redstone Castle, so we created the zoning for it, and they got approval for what was very a very controversial use, primarily as a special event venue where they were going to have weddings every weekend, during the late spring, summer and fall season,” Horn said.
The couple completed a major renovation of the castle in 2018. They listed the property for sale for $19.75 million in the fall of 2020 before lowering the price.
“They did a very nice job renovating the castle,” Horn said. “It’s beautiful. And they started to run it as a boutique hotel, is what the Carvers called it, and the only way the financial model worked for the property was the special events subsidizing the castle, and the special events were going to be weddings every weekend, with 150 people. It was super controversial, primarily due to the nature of the Crystal River Valley and the way the sound would carry.”
De Baets and Horn are seeking a code amendment to the Redstone Castle Village Lodge Preservation Master Plan that would allow the development of eight structures each with two two-bedroom rental apartments for employees, which equates to housing for up to 36 employees. The castle itself would no longer house guests, while visitors’ accommodations would include four three-bedroom cabins and four two-bedroom cottages on the property. They are also asking for the capability to host wedding events, but De Baets said those types of functions would be few and far between.
De Baets is a part-owner and sole managing member of the St. Regis Aspen, and he and his family acquired a home in the Aspen area during the pandemic in 2020. He looked at several properties in the area for a wellness retreat before landing on the castle.
“When we studied the site, we understood the current situation was the fact it was a special-events venue and the town didn’t like it,” he said. “And I talked to a couple of locals and said, ‘What do you think about my property’s use?”, and they kind of liked it because, A, it creates viability for the castle. I can tell you that if you just run it as a bed-and-breakfast, you’re never going to make money and after a while, you’re just going to give up. The only way to make money is to have a party every weekend, but that’s not gonna happen.”
A wellness retreat, according to De Baetis, would enhance the Redstone experience. Visitors to the castle would be there to improve their lives through wellness, healing and diet, he said. They would not be there to party, and the services they need would be contained to the castle property.
“It does fit well that Redstone would be known as this wellness, organic, real-nature type of preserve,” he said. “It provides quality tourism, and when you go there for a retreat, you’re not going to take your car back and forth.”
“The Castle, Carriage House and Barn will be improved as a wellness center operating accessory to the lodging,” the application says. “The wellness center will be used by lodging guests staying in the cabins and cottages and will have very limited availability for people who are not staying in the tourist accommodation units. A wellness center is a facility offering treatments for physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Treatments may include but are not limited to treatments for maintaining health, preventing illness, massage therapy, physical therapy, yoga, stretching, hydrotherapy, weight control and detox.”
The castle would serve as a venue for receptions, dining, housing for nine employees, a kitchen, a staff lounge and treatment rooms.
The castle is the property’s largest structure with a total heated area of 19,495 square feet, according to property records.