Planning board gets first look at Lake Flower Hotel

SARANAC LAKE – Malone developer Chris LaBarge presented a preliminary architectural rendering and site plan for his proposed 90-room upscale hotel on the shoreline of Lake Flower at a special village Planning Board meeting Wednesday night.

LaBarge had provided a hand-drawn rendering of the hotel at a press conference two weeks ago when the project was first announced. He described the architectural drawing shown to the planning board Wednesday as the “second take” in the process of trying to “arrive at the design that maintains the architecture of Saranac Lake from some of the historical buildings of the past.

“We’re probably not there yet,” he said, “but we’re trying to move in the direction of what would be the desire of the village and the people through the planning processes that you’ve been through.”

The rendering shows the lakeside view of the hotel, which would be built on the site of three existing Lake Flower Avenue motels: the Lake Flower Inn, the Adirondack Motel and the Lake Side Motel. The rectangular-shaped building would have a covered, walkable porch that extends all the way around the hotel’s first floor. Multi-story cupola-type structures would be located on each of the building’s four corners and would serve as sitting rooms for guests in those corner rooms.

LaBarge’s initial plan called for standard and suite-style guest rooms on the hotel’s second, third, fourth and fifth floors, and a lobby, small restaurant, pool, spa area and banquet/meeting space on the first floor. The latest design, however, would eliminate guest rooms on the fifth floor.

“We’re going to be able to get in our 90 rooms with four stories,” he said. “All the space up here (on the fifth story) is just architectural design in terms of what do we want up there to give it the appeal we’re looking for.”

LaBarge wouldn’t say what the structure’s height, in feet, could be because the design of the hotel is still being refined. Asked what color and material the building’s siding would be, LaBarge said brown cedar shakes are one option but he said he’s open to suggestions from the board.

The building’s design characteristics would be the same on the road side of the hotel, LaBarge said, except it would have a drive-through entryway covered by a roof. A roughly 100-space parking lot would run along the length of the building, between the hotel and the road. There would be two entrances to the property, one located near the sharp bend in the road and the other roughly across from Winona Avenue. LaBarge said he’s also planning off-site parking for hotel employees and possibly some guests, although he said he’s still working to finalize where that would be.

A separate building housing a second restaurant and bar would be located on the lake and would connect to the hotel via a covered walkway. A series of docks would be located along the shoreline in front of the restaurant, with another set of docks in front of the hotel.

Planning board Chairwoman Leslie Karasin said Wednesday’s meeting was a chance for the board to get a general overview of “a project that has the potential to really change the face of an important portion of our village visually, physically and economically.” More details will be submitted as the project moves through the multiple levels of review involved in the planned unit development district process.

LaBarge said he met this week to discuss the project with the state Departments of Transportation, Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency. He also said he’d need state Department of Health and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approvals.

Karasin asked her board members what issues they think will need to be focused on during their review. Scott Stoddard said he wants to see details of the building’s height and how it will, from all sides, “fit into the landscape of the lake and the road.”

“That seems to be the feedback I’m hearing from the public already,” board member Molly Hann added later. “‘How is this going to impact the viewshed? Is it going to be a big wall of the building that blocks the view? What is the view?’ Things like that.'”

LaBarge said three-dimensional renderings will be provided as part of a visual impact analysis required by the APA, although he said they won’t be done until the architectural design of the building is completed.

Parking issues and the overall lack of green space in the design were also discussed. Hann asked if LaBarge considered orienting the building in a different way on the properties. LaBarge said he tried different designs, but determined that configuring the building another way would limit views of the lake from the hotel’s guest rooms and impact the economic viability of the project.

As for the proposed architectural design of the hotel, Karasin told LaBarge “the direction you’re headed, with trying to emulate the styles of some of the historic hotels, is a good one.”

LaBarge said he hopes to provide the planning board with a sketch plan by its Sept. 18 meeting.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or