ALBANY - New York state will kick in $7 million for two hotel projects in Saranac Lake, part of an $81.3 million haul in state economic development funds for the North Country.
The money was announced Wednesday to a packed crowd at the Hart Theater at the Egg Center for Performing Arts on the Empire State Plaza. The state is doling out $715 million for 824 projects across New York in the third round of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Council initiative.
Spotlights shine into the snowy sky Wednesday night from the sites of two Saranac Lake hotel projects: one proposed for the shore of Lake Flower, in the foreground, and a renovation of the Hotel Saranac. The spotlights were arranged by village Mayor Clyde Rabideau as a celebration of state grants for the hotels.
(Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)
"Day of celebration"
The North Country's take includes $5 million requested by the new owners of the Hotel Saranac to buy and renovate the iconic building in the heart of the village's downtown. The Roedel family, based in New Hampshire but with longtime ties to Saranac Lake, bought the hotel Friday for $1.4 million from the Arora family, which owned it for the last seven years.
Also, developers of a proposed 90-room, upscale resort hotel on Lake Flower received $2 million of the $2.2 million they had sought from the state. Chris LaBarge of Malone is leading that project, which is expected to cost between $15 million and $18 million, through the process of getting approvals from the village and the state Adirondack Park Agency.
The hotel funding was hailed by Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau, who attended the ceremony and sat with the North Country contingent.
"I am the happiest mayor in New York state," Rabideau told the Enterprise. "It's a tremendous feeling to know that New York state and the governor have put so much faith, confidence and money into the future of Saranac Lake. What we have at hand is a new epoch of progress and prosperity in the capital of the Adirondacks."
To celebrate, the village shined a pair of large spotlights into the sky Wednesday night from the site of each hotel project.
"This is a day of celebration," the mayor said. "We got a $35 million award with Clarkson and Trudeau Institute just a couple weeks ago - today, $7.1 million for two vitally needed resort hotel projects. We're going to celebrate by shining these great lights, one from each site, across the winter skies."
Hotel developers react
Developers of the two hotel projects attended Wednesday's ceremony in person. Fred Roedel III, a principal in Roedel Companies and head of its construction wing, ROK Builders, traveled to Albany from New Hampshire with his father, Fred Roedel, a senior advisor for Roedel Companies.
Fred Roedel III said the $5 million from the state "shows great confidence in our company, the hotel, the village and the project overall.
"To get (the hotel) where it needs to be takes a lot more than it would be able to support just through its own business venture," Roedel said. "So this was critical to get this money and get this back on track."
LaBarge was also in Albany for the awards; he told the Enterprise later that he was excited about the state's $2 million commitment.
"We want to thank the regional council for acknowledging our project, making it a priority project, and the award we were recognized with today, which gives us the opportunity to continue to move through the planning process," LaBarge said.
Asked about the $200,000 difference between what he sought from the state and what was awarded, LaBarge said there are tax breaks and other economic incentives that his company can pursue to close that gap.
Also in the Tri-Lakes area, Bionique Testing Laboratories in Lake Clear was awarded $650,000 of the $700,0000 it had sought for a 10,000-square-foot expansion that will include laboratory, storage and conference space.
The state gave Tupper Lake's Wild Center museum $250,000 of the $464,000 it had requested for the second phase of building the Wild Walk, an elevated walkway through the forest canopy. Construction began shortly after the state pledged $1 million in October.
"This funding is for the exhibits and interpretation on (the) Wild Walk," Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe said in a press release. "To continue to be recognized and supported as a priority project by our peers underscores the economic and social impact of The Wild Center."
The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake received $1.4 million for renovations and exhibit upgrades. The museum had asked for $2.9 million.
Cycle Adirondacks got the $211,750 requested for it, but through the Mohawk Valley region rather than the North Country. This new, $970,000 initiative proposed by the Wildlife Conservation Society would be a cross-park ride for up to 600 cyclists from all over the country.
Other big awards in the region included $4.5 million for an expansion of the terminal at Plattsburgh International Airport, $2.1 million to redevelop the former Mercy Health Center site in Watertown and $750,000 to restore the Inn on Schroon Lake.
Throughout the North Country, the state is giving $6 million to expand the access to affordable high-speed broadband Internet service, $1 million to create a revolving loan fund for agribusiness and $1 million to draw Canadian visitors to recreate in the North Country. The Adirondack North Country Association was awarded $100,000 for a North Country product branding initiative and $59,200 to develop an Adirondack Regional Art Trail.
There were also numerous smaller grants, including $30,000 for a sewer system study in the Payeville Lane area of Saranac Lake, $30,000 for a Main Street sewer system study in Lake Placid, $3,360 for Saranac Lake's Pendragon Theatre to hire an intern, $54,460 for improvements to Grove Road Park in Jay, $55,000 for North Country Community College to study turning the former Lowe's building in Ticonderoga into an applied technology center, and a combined $157,000 for digital conversion at the Indian Lake, AuSable Forks and Schroon Lake movie theaters.
This is the third year of the region-by-region economic development contest, a Cuomo administration initiative that replaces grants awarded directly through state agencies and legislators.
Cuomo said the system is working, citing the state's improved credit rating and job-creation record.
"We have created more private-sector jobs in the state of New York then ever existed before in the history of the state of New York," he told the crowd. "That's what you've accomplished.
"You travel across the state, you can see it, you can feel it," he said. "You go to the North Country and there's a positiveness, there's a cohesiveness in the North Country. They're developing tourism. They have a vision for biotech. The Trudeau Institute, what it did for this state and this country, and what it's going to do going forward as an engine for biotech working with Clarkson you feel that it's different. It's not just numbers on a piece of paper. And I believe we haven't even hit our stride yet."
The North Country is the only region to be among the five "top performer" regions each of the contest's three years. Last year it won $90.2 million, and in 2011 it received $103.2 million.
Its $81.3 million this year is the fifth-most money of the state's 10 regions, slightly behind Long Island, the Capital Region, the Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier - with Long Island topping out at $83 million.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru, said the North Country's success is a testament to co-chairmen Garry Douglas and Tony Collins and other members of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
"They worked hard, and they put so much time and effort into it," agreed state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury. "One of the biggest characteristics of our plan is we always show how we implemented the previous years, and that gives us a lot of points going forward."
"We're just so elated for the region," Collins said. "This is a regional win. The entire region has come together. The report reflects that. The effort reflects that, and the state recognizes that and invests in the region."
"It's so satisfying, particularly on behalf of all the volunteers we have the privilege of working with," Douglas said. "It's an exciting affirmation of all their time and effort."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.