The future of the 37.5-acre property on Ramapo Valley Road that was once the is up for grabs, as township officials say it has the potential to be purchased and renovated into several different possibilities. What was once a religious retreat could turn into a convention center or a development of single-family homes.
The Carmel Retreat, which was a religious center run by a group of Catholic friars, shut down this summer. According to Brother Thomas Murphy, who helped run the retreat, financial difficulty was the “primary reason” the retreat shut its doors.
“For many reasons, retreat houses are almost never able to exist without significant support from their founding organizations, in this case the Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, centered in Darien, IL,” Murphy said. “The Provincial leadership decided that the subsidy to CR was too large, unsustainable.”
Murphy said the retreat was also suffering from an “ongoing decline in the number of Carmelite priests and brothers who are available to staff [it],” – another deciding factor in closing it.
According to the township’s tax assessor Stuart Stolarz, the exempt property has an estimated worth of $3.8M. But, “this does not take into account possible sub-division which could result in larger numbers,” he said.
The current zoning in place at the property allows for single-family homes to be built, Mahwah Zoning Official Gary Montroy said. The Retreat House received a zoning variance in the 1980’s to build there, he said. The lot currently contains one main building, two smaller ones and two outer buildings.
“The future use of the property really depends on who buys it,” Montroy said. “If it is to be used as a religious retreat center, the variance would go with the sale. But, if it is for something else, like a convention center, the new owner would need to go before the board of adjustment.”
Murphy said he does not know much about the future plans for the site, and a Carmelite managing office did not return a call for comment.
According to Montroy, the owners are “looking to sell.”
So far, the zoning official said he has received inquiries from “a lot of realtors” about building possibilities at the site. A yoga retreat, convention center, and 40-home residential development are all requests that his office has received, Montroy said.
“It is too early to say if any of those would definitely be able to happen, or the exact number of subdivisions that would be allowed, but it is currently zoned for residential,” Montroy said.