SARANAC LAKE — The new owners of the Hotel Saranac have started its renovation.
Fred Roedel III recently began meeting with designers and organizing demolition in a project that will put some $13 million into restoration of the iconic downtown building.
Standing six stories of brick tall, the Hotel Saranac was built in 1927. It is counted as a Historic Hotel of America, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“We are going to architecturally, historically redesign it,” Roedel said, standing under ceilings cracked and stained with water damage.
“Plaster doesn’t hold up well without heat,” he said, looking up.
Ceilings in the first-floor entryway and office rooms and in the large ballrooms upstairs all have evidence of pipes leaking from floors above.
Viewed from the front entryway, the hotel seems stripped of a former warmth and glory.
The previous owners removed most of the wall decorations before the property changed hands, leaving bits of uneven holiday garland draped over doorways. A random, unfurled tube of Christmas wrapping paper leaned against the old brass letterbox set idly near the middle of the room.
“It’s a great building,” Roedel said. “It has what we call ‘good bones.’ These are all issues we can fix.”
Empty boxes and bare stands for fliers stood sentinel in a littered front room. The wide wooden check-in desk with elegantly carved corners was lined neatly with various sets of keys.
The desk isn’t staying, Roedel said.
“It was built by Paul Smith’s College. The original hotel had an arcade entry with individual shops and stores on both sides.”
That feature, bringing pieces of downtown commerce inside, will return.
Roedel has the original hotel plans and is working from them toward what looks to be an accurate renovation.
“We are getting photos from the historic folks,” he said. “They have been really helpful.”
“There is a beautiful history here that we have to get back.”
Roedel’s companies closed on the purchase barely two weeks ago. Roedel Partners acquired the hotel and its surrounding lots for $1.5 million.
The quick start to begin work looks to reopen Hotel Saranac in 2015.
$5 MILLION STATE MONEY
Its return promises both economic and community benefit.
The restoration project earned $5 million in economic development investment from New York state via the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
The $5 million figure was carefully calculated, Roedel explained.
The restoration, at $13 million, is supported by an estimated $8 million in normal annual operating revenue.
The difference of $5 million is what the project needed to get off the ground.
Roedel expects the region will see fully a 20-to-1 return on the dollar.
And he outlined the benefits in three measures.
First is construction, he said, which will pump $7 million into local jobs and services.
Second is the return of annual operating costs, bringing 40 to 45 full-time positions.
Third comes the return from direct visitor impact at $7 million to $9 million annually.
“About 32,000 people (will) move through this hotel to the Main Street of this town,” Roedel said.
The $5 million state development injection is expected to return about $105 million after the first year of operation.
Roedel said they applied to the Regional Council because their project fit nicely into New York’s economic-growth plan.
“New York’s plan outlines key goals that reflect ours: job growth, revitalization of historic properties and visitor impact.”
The fact that this redevelopment project sits in the wild confines of the Adirondacks only makes it special, the hotel’s new owner said.
He would know. The Roedel family digs generations deep into these towns and forests.
“My great-grandfather Perley Gould worked for Paul Smith himself,” Roedel said, his smile wide.
“My mother grew up here in Saranac Lake. Her father was a doctor, Dr. Henry Leetch.”
His great-grandfather cured from tuberculosis here.
But, he said, critical motivation for the entire restoration goes back to the community itself.
Really, who would want to take on such an arduous labor of love? The building requires both tender restoration to historic detail and significant repairs.
“This is significant,” Roedel said. “But this is an important asset to the community. We’ve watched the town go downhill a little bit with the hotel’s downturn. We understand that the community has to love and appreciate this.”
And what the community will get, he projects, is a high-class hotel with the kind of amenities the traveling public seeks.
In the ballroom, chandeliers hung festive in the gloom, their crystal baubles still and unlit over empty tables. In the waning afternoon light, speckles of forgotten glitter still littered the deep carpet.
Tables were covered, unset, with white linen, as if a party had just left.
Roedel said he was glad that so many of the precious parts of the hotel remain intact.
“It’s going to be a fun project,” he said, glancing around, his breath making ghosts in the chilly room.
But will it be difficult?
“If it were easy, then everybody would do it,” he said.
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