A property owner’s 2001 vision for spec houses in Ithaca morphed into a four-building, 100-plus acre estate that will be given exposure across the country this week.
The Ithaca, NY property is to be featured on the CNBC television real estate program “Million Dollar Homes.”
Chef Michael Casper built the four-building complex on Comfort Road and is running it as Private Hotel + Pure Food. There are six bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms spread between the green energy barn house and the log home. The third building is a sanctuary hand-painted by Tibetan monks and the fourth is a combination owner’s apartment and heated, insulated storage building.
Casper bought the property in 2001 and immediately started breaking trails. He started building in 2002. As more property became available, he added over 100 acres. There is a pond, a stone circle and five miles of roads.
Casper’s original vision was to build spec houses, and he started two. But the real estate market crash of 2008 ended that plan.
“I sat there scratching my head with almost $4 million in property saying, ‘Oh, boy, now what,’ ” Casper said?
As selling in a down market wasn’t attractive, his next thought was to rent. But his epiphany was that the property would make a great private hotel.
Casper drew on his 40-year background in hospitality, working as a chef from New York City to Puerto Rico, Haiti, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Ithaca. Before setting up shop in Danby, he opened The Eddy Street Cafe in Ithaca’s Collegetown in 1995.
The Danby property was approved as a bed and breakfast in 2009 and Casper worked from 2010 to the opening in April of 2012 to perfect the spaces.
His hotel vision has paid off. Casper boasts that Private Hotel + Pure Food is the number one rated bed and breakfast on Tripadvisor in the Ithaca area. He makes himself available to guests at all hours, offering guidance to the Ithaca area, and cooking organic and vegan meals from the chef’s kitchen. “I’m their 24-hour concierge,” Casper said.
Casper lists off names of big e-commerce companies whose employees stay with him regularly but also caters to average people who want a a really nice place to stay.
“I don’t like to be looked at as an innkeeper,” Casper said. “I don’t run it like a bed and breakfast. When people come here they get what they want.”
The interiors are finished in varieties of unusual woods. The grand room in the green energy barn house has a 24-foot ceiling. Bathrooms are lavishly outfitted, some with tubs and oversized showers. The sanctuary is hand painted by Tibetan monks. The central courtyard is available for group events.
Having created something special, Casper is looking for a change of pace and to wind down a bit.
“It’s time for some kind of a change whether I’m still involved here or I’m not,” Casper said.
The property is for sale, but Casper is open to other arrangements and could still be involved as the chef and host if the new owner wanted to continue the business.
“He’s created something wonderful and could continue to collaborate, ” said said Laurel Guy, an associate broker at Warren Real Estate who’s handling the listing.
The appearance on “Million Dollar Home” is anticipated this week, but Guy said a specific airing date isn’t available. The asking price is $975,000.
Casper said he has met his goals for the property.
“I’m open to the universe for whatever comes my way,” Casper said.