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Crews hired by Roedel Companies are restoring the Hotel Saranac's original arcade. The arcade ran through the ground floor of the building from Main Street to Academy Street until it was blocked off in the late 1970s when Paul Smith's College extended the hotel's central staircase to the ground floor. Photo by Chris Knight-Adirondack Daily Enterprise<br />
Crews hired by Roedel Companies are restoring the Hotel Saranac's original arcade. The arcade ran through the ground floor of the building from Main Street to Academy Street until it was blocked off in the late 1970s when Paul Smith's College extended the hotel's central staircase to the ground floor. Photo by Chris Knight-Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Renovations take the Hotel Saranac back in time

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Crews are well into renovating and restoring Saranac Lake's iconic downtown hotel.

New Hampshire-based Roedel Companies purchased the Hotel Saranac in early December from the Arora family for $1.4 million. The company has promised to return the 1927 hotel "to its historic grandeur."

Chris Knight recently took part in a tour of the ongoing renovations.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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Kim Alavarez is Roedel Companies' historic preservation consultant. She's standing halfway up a steel staircase in the middle of what used to be the Hotel Saranac's arcade, a long interior hallway that ran through the building's ground floor, flanked by storefronts on each side.

In 1977, the arcade was closed off when the central staircase was extended to the first floor to meet building code requirements.

Now, workers have pulled down those walls and opened the arcade up again.

"In the process of removing some of these layers, many of these storefronts were concealed behind drywall," Alvarez told the group. "But you got a sense of the rhythm of these bronze or pressed copper storefronts that continued that rhythm from Main Street and Academy [Street] right through and back out."

You're all happy it's happening. Hand in hand with that is there had better be a hammer swinging every day.
For many of the roughly 40 people on this tour, it's trip back through time. Tim Fortune is a local artist who grew up in Saranac Lake.

"As a little boy, I used to get my haircut in the barbershop that was located in the central arcade, and I used to ride my bicycle through the arcade as well," he said. "I have childhood memories."

The gutting of the six-story hotel got underway in mid-April. Amy Catania, director of Historic Saranac Lake, the village's historic preservation group, said the community seems relieved.

"People haven't really been able to believe it until they've actually seen the dumpsters show up," she said. "I think people are just generally relieved. It almost seemed too good to be true for a while."

The Hotel Saranac was an economic anchor for Saranac Lake and a social hub for the community for decades until the last owners took over seven years ago. A series of unpopular business decisions the Arora family made – like cutting personnel and later closing the hotel's bar, pub and restaurant – led to friction with local residents, who stopped frequenting the business and stopped sending their visiting family and friends to stay there.

The Roedels came onto the scene last year and bought the hotel from the Aroras. They also secured $5 million in state funding toward the hotel's renovation.

While much of that work involves physical labor, Alvarez said obtaining historic preservation tax credits are "a huge tool" in the $13 million project. The first step in that process is getting the hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"We are pending as a National Register-listed property, which allows us to move forward with the tax credit applications," she said.

When it first opened, the hotel had 100 rooms, each with its own bathroom. Several of those rooms have been combined over the years into larger suites, but the vast majority of the rooms are much smaller than you'd find in most modern hotels.

Fred Roedel III, right, of Roedel Companies and Kim Alvarez of Landmark Consulting talk outside a guest room during a tour of the Hotel Saranac. Photo by Chris Knight - Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Fred Roedel III, right, of Roedel Companies and Kim Alvarez of Landmark Consulting talk outside a guest room during a tour of the Hotel Saranac. Photo by Chris Knight - Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Standing outside one of those rooms during the tour, Fred Roedel, who's leading the project, said he doesn't plan on changing that.

"In real life, believe it or not, there are rooms smaller than this in places like New York City and big cities," he said. "We're not going to radically change the rooms, just make them a very high-end room.'"

He also wants to keep up the project's momentum, "One of the critical performances of this project is that thankfully all of the people in this village, all of you are stoked, which I think is cool," Roedel said. "You're all happy it's happening. Hand in hand with that is there had better be a hammer swinging every day because what we want is people to stay stoked."

Roedel Companies hopes to complete the restoration by the end of the year or early next year.

Amy Catania of Historic Saranac Lake said she believes the hotel project shows that historic preservation can be the cornerstone of a small community's economic development.

"This is a step," she said. "It's a huge step. But we would love to see more of this happen downtown. I think this can be the beginning of really starting to invest in some of our old downtown buildings and bringing them back."

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