ALBANY - New York state will kick in $7 million for two hotel projects in Saranac Lake, part of $81.3 million haul in state economic development funds for the North Country.
The money was announced Wednesday, Dec. 11 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.
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 resort hotel on Lake Flower received $2 million of the $2.2 million they sought from the state. Chris LaBarge of Malone is leading that project, which is expected to cost between $15 million and $18 million. He wants to build a 90-room, upscale hotel with a spa, conference space and restaurants on the site of three Lake Flower Avenue motels.
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 said. "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, Rabideau said the village will shine a pair of large spotlights into the sky tonight 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. It's going to be exciting."
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.
"We're excited to get this going and have this in place so we can get this project on the road," he said.
The grant is crucial to the project, Roedel added.
"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," he said. "So this was critical to get this money and get this back on track."
LaBarge was also in Albany for the awards.
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.
The Adirondack Museum received $1.4 million for renovations and upgrades to the museum and its exhibits, including new hands-on, interactive exhibits designed to engage families. The museum had asked for $2.9 million.
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 conduct a biomass feasibility study at a building on its Ticonderoga campus, and a combined $157,000 for digital conversion at the Indian Lake, AuSable Forks and Schroon Lake movie theaters.
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.
The North Country got the fifth most money of the state's 10 regions, coming in slightly behind Long Island, the Capital Region, the Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier - with Long Island topping out at $83 million. The North Country received significantly more than the Western New York, Finger Lakes, New York City, Central New York and Mid-Hudson regions, each of which received around $60 million.
This is the third year of the contest, a Cuomo administration initiative that replaces economic development grants awarded through state agencies and legislators. The North Country has been among the top five "top performer" regions each time.
The resources awarded by the state include state tax breaks for new and expanding companies and borrowing authority and cash for the economic development proposals judged to have the most promise in each region. Most involve partnerships between business and local colleges.