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Team behind ‘largest spa in North America’ answer questions during public participation meeting
passport springs and spa
Passport Springs & Spa is a proposed 10-acre spa on Ronald Reagan Blvd behind the Collection at Forsyth.

Over 30 Forsyth County residents attended a public participation meeting on Tuesday, May 17 to hear from Passport Experiences CEO Jacob Bloch about the “largest spa in North America” proposed to open in south Forsyth in 2023.

Passport Springs is a proposed 10-acre, “immersive hot springs venue” that transports guests “to exotic locations by recreating the most celebrated hot springs from across the globe.”

The spa is proposed to sit adjacent to The Collection at Forsyth on Ronald Reagan Boulevard and will include 76,643 square feet of outdoor recreation space and 232 parking spaces on 10.6 acres currently zoned commercial business district.

Passport Experiences is applying for a conditional-use permit along with three variances for the development’s “unique design requirements.” Variances include reductions in pedestrian landscaping, sidewalk and façade landscape zones.

 

Offerings and experiences

Bloch began his presentation by stating that previous articles written about the spa were just a “preview; they were just a tease to the type of experience that we’re bringing [to] Passport Springs.”

“Yeah, it is a spa, but it’s [also] more than a spa,” Bloch said. “It’s the first hot spring in Atlanta, [and] it’s really the first one east of the [Rocky Mountains].”

While Bloch noted there are spas in Arkansas and south Georgia, he said Passport Springs & Spa will be the “first of its kind” as it’ll incorporate spa treatments from around the world.

“When I say we’re recreating the experiences, I want to be clear. This isn’t some water that’s being mixed in a test tube [and just] feels the same as the Dead Sea,” Bloch said. “You’re actually going to float in the water.”

Bloch said the architect and designer for the project will be Voelker Gray Design which has created an award-winning spa experience in California called Glen Ivy Hot Springs. The civil engineer, Kimley-Horn, has helped with projects like the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Battery and Avalon.

Todd Voelker, co-owner of Voelker Gray Design and architect for the project, said their team is still working on developing the concepts of the interior of the spa. However, he said they’re planning to match the outside architecture to The Collection.

“In essence, Passport Springs is taking you around the world, … [but] in contrast on the exterior, we wanted the architecture to have a link to history but not be in particular one style or another,” Voelker said.

While concepts for the inside of the venue are still in the works, Bloch said he wants to incorporate indoor and outdoor space, a central pool, lazy river, bistro and café, retail space, spa treatments and four international sections.

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passport springs and spa
Bloch and his team provided residents with a rendering of the proposed front of Passport Springs & Spa, which would sit adjacent to the Collection at Forsyth on Ronald Reagan Blvd. Photo courtesy Passport Experiences.

Israel

Bloch said that in Israel, guests at the spa will be able to walk through narrow streets inspired by Jerusalem with arches and blue doors.

At the end of the street, Bloch said he envisions a food and beverage area with falafel, shawarma and a signature cocktail.

Then, he said guests can decide if they want to visit the pools inspired by the Tiberias Hot Springs or the “largest floating pool in the world” designed after the Dead Sea.

At each international destination, Bloch said he wants to incorporate a cultural and special experience.

In Israel, guests will be able to lather with mud and clay to help reduce skin impurities. Bloch said he and his team have already begun testing imported muds and clays from Israel and Jordan.

 

Japan

Across from Israel, guests can venture to Japan, entering through a corridor lined with lanterns. At the end of the entrance, Bloch said there will be a sake bar.

Pools amongst pagodas, koi ponds, maple trees and red bridges will be incorporated into the design, as well as shoji screens and torii gates, Japanese hot springs staples.

Bloch said the special experience in Japan will be sand bathing where guests can be buried in steaming sand to soothe the skin.

 

Rome

Heading to Rome, guests will enter through a courtyard with places to sit in lounges or in the pool.

Bloch explained the main attraction in Rome will be the pantheon with an oculus, a circular opening in the center of a dome, ceiling or wall.

At each attraction in Rome, Bloch said there will be a view of the pantheon.

The special experience in Rome will be the salt caves, which will allow guests to breathe air saturated with salt particles and relax in a regenerative environment.

 

Costa Rica

Topping off the four international destinations will be Costa Rica, Bloch said, complete with tropical plants in a greenhouse, connecting bridges and stone seating in pools.

Bloch said he will be taking inspiration from Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa, “Costa Rica’s largest network of naturally flowing thermal mineral springs.”

The special experience in Costa Rica will be access to the Grotto, an underground “cave network of saunas, steam rooms, snow rooms and salt caves.”

“You’re going to go underground, and you’re going to journey,” Bloch said. “It’s going to be an experience, where you go from the sauna to the steam room, to the snow room and … then the salt cave. It’s really an experience.”

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passport springs and spa
Proposed site plan for Passport Springs & Spa. Photo courtesy Passport Experiences.

Audience questions

The residents in the audience had many questions regarding the spa’s capacity, hours of operation, price and water usage.

Bloch began by saying the venue will be able to hold about 600 guests at a time, and experiences will not be time-limited; people can stay in each attraction if they would like.

He also said he expects it to take guests a few days and multiple trips to get the “full experience” of the spa.

Regarding hours of operation, Bloch said the venue would likely be open from about 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Ethan Underwood, the attorney representing the development, said the venue would be advertised as a “child-free” environment.

While Bloch said he and his team are still working on a price tag for a day pass to the spa, he explained that he wants to make the experience affordable while still offering something “upscale.”

One member of the audience said he was in the swimming pool industry, and he expressed his excitement for the project, offering his own expertise to chat with Bloch’s team about filtration and ventilation.

About water, each pool in the spa will have specialized heaters and ventilators to achieve the desired effect of the water, such as the salt level in the Dead Sea floating pool, according to Bloch.

Bloch also said the water will be re-filtered, calling the development a “water conservation effort” as he expected the venue to only use about 270,000 gallons of water a year.

According to Bloch, the average household in America uses about 100,000 gallons of water each year.

“Our venue, in terms of the pools themselves, is only using 270,000 gallons [of water] per year,” Bloch said.

While the project will be connected to Forsyth County’s water and sewer, Bloch said the spa will be taking up less water than three houses as water will be recirculated, treated with UV and reverse osmosis and cleaned.

 

What’s next

Underwood explained that the project’s next steps would be coming before the planning commission for a public hearing. He estimated the date of the meeting to be in June.

Following a public hearing at the planning commission, the item would then be sent for a public hearing before the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

Bloch said if all goes well, he hopes to have a groundbreaking for the spa later this year and an opening date in fall 2023.