Former dorm to be part of Hotel Saranac

SARANAC LAKE – The new owners of the Hotel Saranac have come up with a plan to provide more, and bigger, rooms to their guests.

New Hampshire-based Roedel Companies, which purchased the hotel last year from the Arora family, announced Friday that it has reached an agreement with Paul Smith’s College to buy the college’s Church Street dormitory. The building is located adjacent to the hotel’s parking lot.

Fred Roedel, who’s been leading restoration of the hotel, told the Enterprise Friday that the dorm’s rooms would be converted to 20 guest rooms.

“We thought the opportunity of having an adjacent property like that was important for a number of reasons,” he said. “It allows us to do some different things. It makes the overall neighborhood more appealing, we think. It also takes the element of the unknown out of the picture because it’s been used by the college, in the last few years, sporadically.”

Roedel has said he doesn’t plan on changing the Hotel Saranac’s room sizes, most of which are much smaller than in most modern hotels.

“That’s part of what we think is special about the building,” Roedel said during a tour of the building in May. “We’re not going to radically change the rooms, just make them a very high-end room.”

Nevertheless, some guests may still want a bigger room, so the purchase of the dorm makes that possible, Roedel said Friday.

“It will provide room sizes that are more in line with what people see today from modern hotels,” he said. “We think it’s going to provide a good balance between the historic element of the main hotel, with a different style room that compliments the overall project.”

The addition of the 20 rooms would give the hotel a total of roughly 100 rooms to offer its guests, Roedel said.

In a press release announcing the deal, Roedel also noted that as ownership of the dorm transfers from the college to Roedel Companies, “the community will also benefit from the increased tax revenues generated from the previously tax-free property.”

The dorm was constructed in 1987 to house students who were in the college’s hotel and culinary arts programs and used the hotel, then owned by the college, as their training center. In 2007, the college sold the hotel to the Arora family but retained ownership of the dorm.

College President John Mills said Friday that the last time the dorm was used by students was two years ago this fall, although it was used this winter to house visiting nursing students from New York University. Contractors working on the village’s Broadway infrastructure project also stayed there this spring and early summer, Mills said.

He said Roedel approached him during the winter about acquiring the property.

“It was a decision we thought about for quite a while,” he said. “We’re really focused on the residential campus housing. We had tried several models there. We were ready to sell it to the Harrietstown Housing Authority three years ago but they were denied a loan from the village.”

The news of the pending sale of the property comes roughly two months after college officials announced plans to cut 23 full- and part-time positions and take other steps due to financial struggles brought on by declining enrollment. Was the sale of the dorm part of that cost-cutting plan?

“No because, like I said, we were ready to sell it three years ago,” Mills said. “It was an asset that wasn’t performing at the level that we wanted it to, and without the hotel program there, we were looking to do what’s best for the college.”

Mills said the college is exploring the idea of a partnership with Roedel Companies that could enhance students’ educational experience, although he said that’s still “down the road.”

Roedel said he expects to close on the dorm in the next month to month-and-a-half.

Hotel restoration

Earlier this year, Roedel said there was an outside chance the hotel’s restoration could be complete by the end of 2014. He said Friday that the timetable has now been pushed back and the project may not be complete until early next year.

“We’ve had some challenges in wrapping up and finalizing the mechanical plan, which is really the heating and air conditioning,” Roedel said. “It should go fairly quickly once we’re able to get that plan done. We’re working diligently. Right now, all things being equal, the team believes April-May is achievable to get it open and get it ready.”

This week, crews continued demolition work in the building; they were working on the bathrooms Friday, Roedel said. Later this month, asbestos abatement will begin and will take seven to eight weeks to complete.

Roedel also said a contract was signed this week to renovate the building’s masonry and limestone. That work is expected to begin in two weeks.