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Chris LaBarge describes an architectural rendering of his proposed 90-room hotel on Lake Flower at Wednesday night's Saranac Lake planning board meeting. Photo: Chris Knight, courtesy <em>Adirondack Daily Enterprise</em>
Chris LaBarge describes an architectural rendering of his proposed 90-room hotel on Lake Flower at Wednesday night's Saranac Lake planning board meeting. Photo: Chris Knight, courtesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Regional Council funding hopes high in Saranac Lake

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At 10:30 this morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo will announce the winners of this year's Regional Economic Development Council process.

The North Country's Council has established sixteen projects here in our region as priorities to receive state funding. They range from a plan to upgrade Plattsburgh's booming airport to a proposal to improve the port in Ogdensburg on the St. Lawrence River.

But the big anticipation this year is in Saranac Lake, where two hotel projects are in the works. Brian Mann, our Adirondack bureau chief, joined Martha Foley on the line for a preview.

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Martha Foley: Brian, let’s talk first about the Hotel Saranac. 

The sign above the Hotel Saranac has long welcomed visitors, but for years the destination has been in decline. Photo: Susan Waters
The sign above the Hotel Saranac has long welcomed visitors, but for years the destination has been in decline. Photo: Susan Waters
Brian Mann: The plan here is to revitalize and reopen the historic Hotel Saranac in the heart of the village.  A firm called Roedel Companies is hoping for roughly $5 million from New York to help with that project.  This is an emotional thing in Saranac Lake.  When I first moved to the village fifteen years ago, the hotel was a cornerstone of the downtown economy, but also the cultural life. There was a little bit of grandeur and sophistication there.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks with Fred Roedel, right, whose company wants to buy and renovate the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake, following an event in Lake Placid Wednesday. Photo: Mike Lynch, Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks with Fred Roedel, right, whose company wants to buy and renovate the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake, following an event in Lake Placid Wednesday. Photo: Mike Lynch, Adirondack Daily Enterprise
In the years since, it’s really fallen on hard times. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported this week that Roedel Companies has now taken ownership of the property. They plan to spend a total of $13 million bringing it back to life.

MF: And then there’s a second resort project that’s been proposed, this one a new hotel that would sit on the village’s waterfront.

BM: Yeah, this one’s a bit more controversial. Malone Developer Chris LaBarge hopes to build a four-story, 90-room resort on the shore of Pontiac Bay; that’s just across from where the Ice Palace is built every winter. He says the project could cost as much as $18 million to build, and he’s asking New York for a little over $2 million in support. This one’s sparked some public debate because it’s waterfront development and some residents think it’s too tall, too large a structure.

MF: So if one or even both of these projects were to get funding and move forward, the sense in Saranac Lake is that this could really make an impact?

BM: Yes. And I think one of the knocks on the Regional Economic Development process in the North Country so far is that the funding has been spread out over such a huge region, over so many different communities, that it’s difficult to measure any big transformational impact in any one community. But if the village of Saranac Lake’s tourism industry suddenly sees two major modern hotels come on-line, you’re talking hundreds of jobs, a lot more overnight stays; the village’s Mayor Clyde Rabideau has argued that this could really move the needle on the economy.

MF: Okay, so Chris Knight will have details on all that tomorrow morning during The Eight O’clock Hour.  Quickly, what are some of the other priority projects around the region?

BM: There are a couple of priority projects in Ogdensburg, one designed to attract more Canadian visitors, another aimed at building grain silos at the Port to help the city grow as a part of the agricultural economy.  Plattsburgh is hoping for a big chunk of money to help grow their airport, which has been booming with Canadian travelers.  There’s also a big chunk—$5 million—that would go to redevelop the old Mercy Hospital site in Watertown. The idea there is to build new mixed-use office buildings. That project has a lot of support from Watertown officials.

MF: Okay, the Regional Economic Development Council grants will be unveiled at 10:30 this morning in Albany. We’ll have an update later today at NCPR.org. And we’ll have a full report tomorrow morning from Chris Knight, who’ll be in Albany.

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