Saranac Lake hotel plans get ‘priority’ status

A pair of Saranac Lake hotel projects have been named to a list of 16 “priority” projects in the region that will vie against others across New York for state economic development funding.

New Hampshire-based Roedel Companies’ planned purchase and renovation of the Hotel Saranac, and Lake Flower Lodging, Malone developer Chris LaBarge’s proposed 90-room hotel on the shore of Lake Flower, are among the projects the North Country Regional Economic Development Council endorsed for the third round of annual funding, according to a “Progress Report” the council issued Tuesday afternoon.

Several other local projects are on the priority list, including phase two of the proposed Wild Walk at Tupper Lake’s Wild Center natural history museum, a major building expansion at Bionique Testing Laboratories in the Adirondack Regional Airport Business Park in Lake Clear, an overhaul of exhibit space at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake and a weeklong bicycle tour through the Adirondacks for up to 600 riders. Funding for the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Highway and Saranac Lake’s Trudeau Institute were dubbed “regionally significant” by the council.

Hotel projects

Garry Douglas, co-chairman of the council and president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, said the Saranac Lake area did so well because it had “excellent projects” this year.

“From the very beginning we have identified, as one of our key strategies, the development of tourism infrastructure, particularly in the Adirondacks, to take the potential for tourism to another level,” Douglas said. “Each of these hotels does it. The question would have been, could one have outweighed the other? Clearly the committee felt they were both excellent projects and that the market was there for both of them simultaneously.”

Roedel Companies is seeking $5 million from the state toward its overall $12.7 million plan to buy the Hotel Saranac and renovate its 75 guest rooms, banquet and meeting facilities, and Main Street retail space. The project also involves construction of a 250-car parking structure, according to documents on the council’s website. It is supposed to create 65 construction jobs and 45 new full-time jobs.

Lake Flower Lodging has asked the state to kick in $2.2 million toward a project that is estimated to cost $14.8 million and create 71 new jobs, although no breakdown was given between construction and long-term jobs. The project involves the demolition of three Lake Flower Avenue motels, which would be replaced with an upscale, four-to-five story hotel with 90 rooms; banquet, spa and restaurant facilities; and a separate restaurant and bar near the shore of the lake.

Saranac Lake village Mayor Clyde Rabideau issued a press release saying he was excited to hear that the hotel projects, Bionique’s expansion and Trudeau Institute were all referenced in the council’s announcement.

“We’re in the running, and we’re running hard,” Rabideau said.

Other priorities

Bionique, which performs contract testing for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, is asking the state for $700,000 toward a $3.5 million plan to add 10,000 square feet of space to its existing facility. The project is supposed to create five new jobs and help retain 19 existing ones.

Company President Dan Lundin said Tuesday he was “encouraged” that the project was given priority consideration.

“The need is there for this facility and our expanded growth to meet client demand,” he said.

The second phase of the Wild Walk would include a two-story tree house, suspended bridges and exhibits built 30 feet in the air. The Wild Center is asking the state for $464,000 toward an overall $2.3 million project that it says would create 11 contract jobs and help retain 10 other ones.

“I’m delighted to hear this news,” said Hillary Logan-Dechene, director of philanthropy at The Wild Center. “That’s a wonderful vote of confidence from the development council.”

The Adirondack Museum is asking the state for $2.9 million toward a $14.7 million plan to replace 30,000 square feet of out-of-date exhibit space with new, hands-on, interactive exhibits. The project is supposed to create 72 new jobs.

No guarantee

Up to $760 million in state funding is available this year. Douglas said the selection of a project to the priority list “is not a guarantee” of funding. He said most of the projects that will be funded this year, as in the two prior years, will be submitted through the statewide Consolidated Funding Application process.

As part of a statewide competition among the 10 regions around the state, each region’s council gets to put forward $25 million in high priority projects. The North Country’s list will now vie against other regions’ projects in a competition that will include analysis of the Progress Report, and a visit by the governor and a review team, Douglas said.

“Sometime, probably by early December, the state will announce five winning regions,” he said. “Those five winning regions typically will get most if not all of their priority projects funded.”

The North Country has been in the top five each of the first two years of the competition.

“The question is, can we win three years in a row?” Douglas asked. “We sure want to think so.”

Other initiatives

The council also announced Monday a list of 11 “other regionally significant priorities and initiatives,” including Trudeau Institute and upgrades to the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway.

Douglas said these projects are new or continuing priorities that don’t involve a specific funding request this round “but which we are looking to highlight of being a continued great importance.

“The state and the regional council are still very much involved with Trudeau as it looks to restructure and build a future in Saranac Lake, and we thought it was important to have in the report this year a message to the state that it remains high on our priority list,” Douglas said. “We’re also highlighting the Whiteface highway project as a priority for consideration for funding in the state budget.”

Enterprise Staff Writer Shaun Kittle contributed to this report.