ALBANY - The new owners of the Hotel Saranac are wasting no time moving forward with their plan to bring the historic and iconic building back to its former grandeur.
They also want the community to be engaged and involved in the process.
Roedel Companies, which bought the downtown Saranac Lake property Friday for $1.4 million, is putting together a design team to begin the process of restoring the hotel with the goal of reopening it by 2015, if not sooner.
Fred Roedel, left, and his son Fred Roedel III shake hands Wednesday in Albany, celebrating a $5 million state grant to help renovate the Hotel Saranac, which their family business bought Friday.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
The Hotel Saranac rises at the heart of downtown Saranac Lake Wednesday night with a spotlight shining overhead to celebrate a $5 million state grant the hotel’s new owners won that day toward a $13 million renovation.
(Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)
The New Hampshire-based company has also launched a new website - hotelsaranac.com - and Facebook page for the hotel, each of which carries the headline, "Remember when? It will one day be again!"
On the website, the company has posted a photo gallery of old pictures of the hotel. It's also inviting people to submit photos of events in its ballroom and share stories of the hotel "so we can create a narrative of its rich history."
The company also encourages people to "experience the renovation as it happens" by submitting their email addresses to receive updates on the restoration, or by checking the hotel's Facebook page, Twitter feed and Pinterest page.
"Roedel prides itself on our commitment to quality and history," the website reads. "The result of this project will be a venue the village of Saranac Lake will be proud to showcase."
In Albany Wednesday, following the announcement of $5 million in state funding for the project, the Enterprise sat down with Fred Roedel III, a principal in Roedel Companies and the head of its construction company, ROK Builders, and his father, Fred Roedel, a senior adviser in Roedel Companies. The following is a portion of that interview.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise: What part of the project will this money be used for?
Fred Roedel III: It goes to the overall development of the project. We've talked about the various pieces that are important: modernizing the building, historically redeveloping the building. Parking is important to this project.
ADE: Other potential buyers of the hotel weren't able to reach a deal with the Arora family. How challenging were the negotiations?
Roedel III: I wouldn't say they were challenging. They were negotiations. I can't speak to why someone was or wasn't successful with Mr. Arora. We developed a very positive relationship with him. We worked through the issues we had to work through, and we ultimately got a deal completed.
ADE: What did it mean to have Gov. Andrew Cuomo's endorsement of this project?
Roedel III: He certainly has an affinity for the village and supports the village in a lot of ways. I think it was important to him not just as a governor but as a citizen of the state of New York. He acknowledged it was important, and I appreciate his support.
ADE: Now that you've secured this funding and bought the hotel, what's next?
Roedel III: We have a consultant that we've engaged out of Albany that's working on the historical side of it, the tax credit side and the recognition as a historically significant asset through the National Trust (for Historic Preservation). We're now going through and talking to various architects and engineers to qualify and select one of those. We're trying to get our design consultants lined up so we can get a team together to pull together the total design.
ADE: What needs to be done to the building?
Roedel III: (Laughs) It's a great building, a very solid building. We had a structural assessment done on it. The community is very lucky that a lot of those very historically significant elements have not been beat up and destroyed over time. A lot of what has to happen is some very basic things. It's bringing the building up to code. It's putting a sprinkler system in. It's modernizing certain systems. It's producing a product at the end of the day that's expected and required of today's traveler, while at the same time bringing back that unique historic element of the community to its 1927 origins. I wouldn't say there's any particular area. That's why I'm kind of laughing, because it's all of it.
ADE: What's your timeline? How soon could it reopen?
Roedel III: We really don't have a timeline yet. It's awfully early in the process. We expect to begin some earnest design work in the next 30 to 45 days without question. There will certainly be some basic things we're going to try to do. We've got roofs to replace and other things to work on. We fully expect to have it back open by 2015. As we go through the process of designing it and coordinating it with our construction people, we'll work very hard to tighten that timeline as more and more information is reliably known.
ADE: What kind of parking garage are you planning?
Roedel III: We're getting a handle on how many spaces we need to have, and we're working on that. Our focus is really a minimalist approach. We've got a couple concepts we're working on to keep that very low. It's certainly not going to be some eight-story structure like you'd see at the Albany airport.
ADE: How is this unique or different from the other hotel projects your company has been involved with over the years?
Roedel: It's different in many ways. It's a unique building, built in 1927. It has 79 to 80 rooms that are rather small, but there's so much to it. It's so much a part of Saranac Lake and important to Saranac Lake. We believe we can make it very special for the community, and also a very special hotel.
ADE: Do you think you'll be competing with the proposed 90-room hotel on Lake Flower? Will the market support this many hotel rooms in the village?
Roedel: I don't think there will be a lot of competition. I think two good hotels in a marketplace are good. More people will come to an area because there are good hotels there. The question of will there be too many hotel rooms for a period of time? I don't know. There could be for a period of time.
ADE: Do you plan to keep the hotel's iconic rooftop sign?
Roedel III: Our plan is to re-light the letters. It's been there a long time. My parents remember that sign and I remember that sign, when we came up to our state camp on the Lower (Saranac) Lake when I was a kid. That's a significant element to that building, and it's got to be part of the overall project, which it will be.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.