SARANAC LAKE - The long-awaited sale of the Hotel Saranac is finally official.
New Hampshire-based Roedel Companies closed on its purchase of the iconic Main Street property from the Arora family on Friday, according to a deed filed Monday in the Franklin County Clerk's Office. Clerk Kip Cassavaw told the Enterprise late Monday that the property was sold by Sardeshwari Enterprises Inc. to Roedel Partners of Saranac Lake LLC for $1,475,995.
"It's a very positive step," village Mayor Clyde Rabideau said Monday night. "The ownership of the property is now in the hands of a group of professionals who have a great design and a great vision for the property."
(Enterprise file photo — Jessica Collier)
While the sale has closed, the deal isn't done yet. Roedel Companies has asked the state for $5 million toward its overall $13 million plan to buy and renovate the hotel. The fate of that request could be known as soon as Wednesday morning when state economic development awards are scheduled to be announced in Albany.
"We've got our fingers crossed," said Rabideau, who will attend the awards ceremony.
Fred Roedel III, a principal in the Roedel Companies, declined to speak about the purchase until after Wednesday's ceremony in Albany.
Seven years under Aroras
Friday's closing took place seven years and five days after the Arora family bought the hotel from Paul Smith's College, which had owned it since 1962 and used it as the training facility for students in its culinary and hospitality management programs. The Aroras paid $775,000, well below its assessed value at the time. It was assessed this year at $1,221,000.
The hotel was an economic anchor for the downtown and a social hub for the community for decades under the college's ownership. When the Arora family took over, a series of unpopular business decisions they made - cutting personnel and later closing the hotel's bar, pub and restaurant - and manager Sewa Arora's confrontational personality led to friction with local residents, who stopped frequenting the business and stopped sending their visiting family and friends to stay there. Groups and organizations that used to meet at the hotel regularly went elsewhere. Downtown merchants saw the business they used to get from the hotel's guests disappear.
Over the years, a sour and often downright hostile relationship developed between the Aroras and the community.
"The locals felt so strongly that they just hated us," Sewa Arora told the Enterprise in August.
Roedels get governor's attention
On Aug. 5, Roedel Companies announced plans to buy and "restore the property to its historic grandeur by renovating (the hotel's) ballroom, lobby, 86 guest rooms and first-floor retail space."
"We believe very strongly we've got a plan that will work, and we're looking forward to getting it done," Fred Roedel, a fourth-generation summer resident of the Saranac Lake area and member of the Saranac Lake Mountaineers rugby club, told the Enterprise at the time.
In late August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took part in a conference call about the company's proposal with Rabideau and Empire State Development President and CEO Ken Adams. The following day, Adams met in Saranac Lake with Roedel and Rabideau.
A month later, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council named the Hotel Saranac plan, along with a proposed 90-room hotel on Lake Flower and several other local projects, to a list of 16 "priority" projects that will vie against others across New York for state economic development funding.
Cuomo gave the two hotel projects a major boost in November, saying during a speech in Lake Placid that the state will do "everything we can to make a new Hotel Saranac a reality, and a development on Lake Flower a reality."
News of the hotel's sale drew positive comments from village officials and several local residents attending Monday night's village board meeting.
Lindy Ellis and Rich Shapiro said a restored hotel would provide a big boost for downtown.
"If we can get people coming back staying at the hotel, we'll get people on the street, they'll be walking into the shops, and all these downtown businesses that have been holding on by their fingernails will start seeing resurgence," Shapiro said. "Hopefully, we'll start seeing some of the empty storefronts filling up again, and we'll have a booming downtown."
Local attorney Paul Herrmann, who lives across the street from the hotel, said the property has been "spooky quiet" since the Aroras stopped taking guests in late October as the deal was pending.
"I'm hopeful," he said. "I'm praying that it's going to be better. I hope it works out for everybody."
Trustee Allie Pelletieri said he has confidence in the hotel's new ownership, particularly in Fred Roedel.
"I met him years ago through rugby," Pelletieri said. "He's always around the village. Very friendly. Very knowledgeable, and his heart is in the community. I think it's great."
"It will be huge for the downtown to have the hotel back," added Trustee Barbara Rice, co-owner of Rice Furniture on Main Street. "It will make a big, big difference for us all."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.