Former Quality Inn reopening as Cambria
LAKE PLACID — The new Cambria Hotel Lake Placid is opening up for bookings with room availability starting in October, hotel and tourism officials recently announced.
This announcement follows more than four years of planning, proposals, rezoning, renovations and delays brought by a variety of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic.
The earliest available booking slot on the hotel’s website was Nov. 1 as of press time Tuesday, though earlier bookings in October may become available as the hotel is finished, according to owner and developer Bhavik Jariwala.
“It’s mostly finish work at this point,” Jariwala said on Tuesday. “We’re slated to open in October.”
There are a total of 185 guest rooms — down from the original proposed 192. They range from “studio and bunk bed suites” to two bed bridal suites. The room rates range from $129 to $799 per night.
“We started this project recognizing a need for a lodging property that suits the modern Lake Placid traveler,” Jariwala said in a statement on Aug. 22. “With a gorgeous waterfront location and mountain views, family and group-friendly amenities, an on-site restaurant and an overall value proposition that’s unmatched in the area, we look forward to serving guests in Lake Placid for years to come with an experience that suits a wide range of lodging and event needs.”
Work has not yet begun on the accompanying workforce housing units that Dual Development LLC, the hotel developers, proposed in January. These proposed units would occupy a separate, roadside building on the same property as the hotel at 2125 Saranac Ave.
In the fall of 2019, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council submitted a $6 million state grant request to help fund this project — the largest request among that year’s 11 NCREDC priority projects. The project was awarded $3 million in state funding in December of that year, with the promise that the hotel rebuild would retain 20 jobs, generate 51 new jobs and create 290 construction jobs.
Jariwala could not provide the number of employees the hotel intends to hire by deadline Tuesday.
“We’re still in the hiring process,” he said. “The timing of when we’re opening is dragging now. It’s getting to a slow period.”
In February 2019, Dual Development was looking to tear down the Quality Inn on Saranac Avenue and replace it with a Tru-Homewood Suites from Hilton, adding 100 rooms to the existing 92. The developers went before the North Elba-Lake Placid Zoning Board of Appeals to request a height variance. The original structure was 35 feet tall, the maximum height allowed by area land use codes. The proposed structure would’ve added 19 feet to that existing height, resulting in a 54-foot-tall structure that would need approval from the board.
Following a public comment period, the ZBA met in late March 2019 to discuss the variance. The board split 3-2 in initial discussions, with the majority indicating that the variance was unnecessary and potentially detrimental to neighboring properties. The board denied the height variance at its next meeting in April 2019, voting along the same 3-2 lines as the previous meeting.
The Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board heard presentations from project engineers and architects before holding a public hearing in October 2019. Lake Placid residents shared concerns about the amount of parking spaces around the hotel, the demand the hotel would create on the local workforce and the public funding the private project was slated to receive.
The board took no action on the project at the time, but the developers were later authorized to demolish the Quality Inn hotel rebuild on the same footprint in January 2020.
The project was awarded $3 million in state funding through the REDC Awards in December 2019.
In December 2020, representatives of Dual Development asked the North Elba Town Council for a PILOT — or payment-in-lieu of taxes — agreement, which would give the developers a tax break for the next 10 years. The town council informally denied the developers’ request.
The project switched hotel chains in April 2021 from a Hilton Tru-Homewood Suites to a Cambria from the Choice Hotels group. The plans for the hotel building remained almost identical to its earlier plans, with the exception of the location of the front entry and pre-existing porte-cochere, which would be moved slightly to the east. Jariwala told the Joint Review Board at the time that they hoped the hotel would be open by the 2023 Winter World University Games, which took place in Lake Placid in January. Jariwala stipulated that the project timeline would depend on the availability of funding.
The Adirondack Park Agency approved a permit for the project in December 2021 following a period of public comment. Developers broke ground on the site in June 2022, at which point the opening date was pushed back to the fall of 2023.
“This (project) goes back to … before the pandemic, so there’s a lot of lingering effects to the pandemic. Financing, just the size of the project (caused delays),” Jariwala said Tuesday.
In January 2023, Dual Development applied for a $700,000 Empire State Development Restore NY Grant to convert the streetside portion of the former Quality Inn — which was left intact after the rest of the structure was demolished — into workforce housing for its future employees.
Per the town-village land use code, housing developers are required to reserve a portion of housing units at an “income-based” price. Developers of private hotels are not held to the same conditions, though several local hotels such as the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort and the Crowne Plaza Lake Placid do offer on-site housing for some staff members.
According to the Restore NY Grant application guidelines, municipalities are the only entities allowed to apply for this particular grant. The grant is for municipalities and associated developers to “demolish, deconstruct, rehabilitate and/or reconstruct vacant, abandoned, condemned and/or surplus properties” as well as “site development needs related to the project including, but not limited to, water, sewer and parking.”
All projects submitted to the Restore NY Grant require the submitting municipality to pledge “no less than 10% of the aggregated award or awards amount in matching contributions.” That means North Elba would have had to pledge a minimum of $70,000 in matching funds on the application for a $700,000 grant for the project. Additionally, according to ESD, the grant is a “reimbursement-based grant” in which the municipalities that receive awards submit receipts to the state for reimbursement rather than receiving a lump sum to put toward the project.
The first step toward a full Restore NY Grant application is for a municipality to submit a letter of intent. The LOI deadline for that particular round of funding was Nov. 30, 2022. North Elba met the deadline; both Jariwala and North Elba Supervisor Derek Doty said that Dual Development approached the town about applying for the grant in the fall of 2022. Doty also said that there would have been a resolution passed at the time to “sponsor” the grant application, though the town of North Elba was not able to provide a record of this resolution by deadline Tuesday. Such a resolution is not in the minutes for the September, October and December town board meetings. The November board meeting minutes are not available online, though the agenda is; the agenda does not contain any items concerning Dual Development or the Restore NY Grant.
The actual grant application, which was due nearly two months later, has lengthier requirements. A municipal resolution, property assessment list, letters from local zoning officials stating project compliance, written commitments for project financing, third party project estimates and a public hearing are just some of the 19 requirements on the application checklist.
The town first gave notice of a public hearing on the matter on Jan. 20, 2023. The meeting was held at 3:20 p.m. on Jan. 25, which was 48 hours before the application deadline of 3 p.m. on Jan. 27. ESD does not have any requirements about when in the application-writing process the hearing is held, only that it be held before the application is submitted.
At the hearing, owners and operators of other local hotels criticized the town’s support for the application when they were not offered similar state funding for their businesses.
Jariwala said at the time that the proposed employee housing could help supplement the area’s lack of affordable housing. Approximately half of the units were to house hotel staff, while the other half could be used for people who work anywhere in Lake Placid. Each of the 13 units could house up to two people.
“We feel like this is our way to support the community and its needs,” Jariwala said.
The board voted the next day to back Dual Development’s grant application. The application was ultimately unsuccessful, according to Jariwala. Doty said he had not received word from ESD about the grant application status.
“Bhavik’s been great to work with,” Doty said Wednesday. “I was certainly hoping he would get the grant. He sees the high importance for having workers. That’s going to be for J1s and it will even be open for public housing if he doesn’t fill it up with his workforce.”