SARANAC LAKE — Add mattresses, towels and bottles of shampoo, and the sixth-floor guest rooms of the Hotel Saranac look like they could welcome guests today.
On the first and second floors, however, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Renovations to the iconic Main Street hotel are moving full-speed ahead, and the Enterprise was granted a hard-hat tour of the progress Thursday. The tour was led by Tad Schrantz, who’s managing and directing the $35 million project for New Hampshire-based Roedel Companies.
“We’re moving along quickly now with construction,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re excited to finish up this summer.”
A soft opening, where the hotel’s doors are opened without any fanfare, is planned for July. Roedel Companies said earlier this week it plans to have the hotel in full operation in August. Hilton Curio, which will manage the hotel, is currently accepting reservations for stays after Nov. 1.
There’s a lot of activity in the building’s ground floor, evidenced by the constant hum of power tools and the shuffling of workers in and out.
Schrantz started the tour into what will be the Ember Room, the hotel’s private dining room, which sits roughly where the old Boathouse Lounge used to be. The metal studs that make up the walls here have yet to be closed up, and contractors are installing wiring. Sheetrock will be installed in the next couple weeks.
“These metal studs are all brand new construction for the hotel,” Schrantz said. “We’ve gone through and removed a substantial amount of walls to reconfigure this space.”
The same is true in some of the adjacent spa space planned on the Academy Street side of the first floor: a nail salon for manicures and pedicures, hair washing stations and a men’s barber shop. While there’s plenty of new construction, many of the hotel’s historic touches here will be kept. Original woodwork has been stripped and cleaned so it can be refinished. Original transom windows have been restored.
Schrantz led the group into what will be called the Academy and Main gift shop. It’s in roughly the same area as the hotel’s old gift shop but will be larger.
“There’s not a lot more work to go on here,” he said. “It’s placement of fixtures, and product that comes in, and we’ll be ready to open the doors. These unfinished spaces, it’s amazing how quickly it comes together.”
The tour then moved into what Schrantz called one of the building’s most important features, the arcade, a long hallway that stretches from the hotel’s Main Street side to its Academy Street side. It was blocked off with a stairwell that went all the way to the top of the building, but that’s gone now.
“We’ve torn all that steel out, all that concrete, and we’re now in the process of starting to refinish the original terrazzo floor to bring it back to the historic nature of the building,” he said.
The hotel’s front desk will be located in the arcade, and its original windowed storefronts will be left in place. One will be a sales office for weddings and events, another will be the spa reception area. There’s still more to do here, however. The ceiling and walls have yet to be closed up. Parts for an elevator that has yet to be installed sit on the arcade floor.
“We’ve got it all figured out, it just has to go back in there,” Schrantz said.
Off the opposite side of the arcade will be the Campfire Bar and Grill. The bar is being manufactured off-site and will be shipped here in about three weeks, Schrantz said. The space will include casual seating near the bar and a large more formal dining area. There will be a seating area near a “presentation kitchen,” and the main kitchen will be off the back of the Campfire.
The hotel’s Great Hall, the site of countless receptions and events over the years, will have a bar at one end, a fireplace in the middle and pre-function space for the hotel’s ballroom at the opposite end.
“Ultimately the Great Hall is not going to change dramatically from the use of the space, but we have put our own spin on it, to a degree, because we want to make it a place for the public to gather, the guests to gather,” Schrantz said.
Historic beams that line the Great Hall’s ceiling are in the process of being restored.
Dozens of restored guest room doors stand at one end of the hallway, waiting to be brought upstairs. Sheetrock is going up in a second floor kitchen area off of the Great Hall, and new kitchen equipment will be delivered soon, Schrantz said.
The hotel’s ballroom, located off the Great Hall, has been turned into a woodworking shop by custom millwork contractor JNK Enterprises.
“They’ve sort of taken over this space, and rightfully so,” Schrantz said. “They’ve built new windows, constructed to match all the historic windows. There are new wood panels that have been constructed to match the existing woodwork.”
The hotel’s Main Street terrace was the next stop on the tour. Here, crews removed several layers of rotting roofing, and replaced it with steel, concrete and rubber roofing. It will eventually be covered with 24-inch-square paver stones so it can be used four-seasons. Schrantz also highlighted the work that’s being done to restore the hotel’s limestone entryway, which extends up to the terrace.
“It was in really rough shape,” he said. “We’ve chiseled off damaged pieces, and there are new pieces being carved off site that will be brought here.”
Guest room floors
On the third and fourth floors, crews are finishing up plastering and are getting ready to paint the guest room and corridor walls. Tile has already been installed on the bathroom walls and floors.
Work is farther along on the fifth and sixth floors, where carpet has been installed in the guest rooms, along with headboards, bed frames and some furniture. Large crown moldings hide each room’s electrical wiring and cabling.
“You have all the modern conveniences, a place to plug in your phone, and WiFi to surf the net — things that weren’t considered when the hotel was built,” Schrantz said. “We’ve come up with a creative solution that really no one will see but will satisfy everybody’s needs.”
The hotel will have a total of 102 rooms, including 20 suites in a former Paul Smith’s College dormitory on Church Street. Many of the rooms in the hotel building are tight, with barely enough room to fit a king- or queen-sized bed. Schrantz was asked why planners didn’t combine more of the hotel’s smaller rooms into larger ones.
“It goes back to the economic model,” he said. “How many rooms do you need to have a successful hotel, and how do you respect the historic nature of the hotel as well? You try to find that balance. When we started the project, the rooms were really small. But once you put the furniture in and the carpet in, something happens, and it actually opens up a little bit and the room gets bigger.”
Contractors have been just as busy in the nearby suites building: replacing windows, repairing the roof and installing electrical and plumbing. It’s lower two floors will have eight suites, with four larger suites on the third floor. Schrantz said the suites building will open about a month after the main hotel.
Outside, crews started assembling the hotel’s 140-space parking garage this week. The pre-cast concrete pieces for the garage were built off site by J.P. Carrara and Sons of Middlebury, Vermont. It will take about three weeks to assemble, Schrantz explained.
“We expect over 100 trucks to roll through here, semi-beds, with pieces of pre-cast,” he said. “It’s a constant flow of traffic. We apologize for any impact it has on the local community, but in the end we think it’s going to be a good thing because there will be adequate parking for the hotel and a really good addition to the neighborhood.”
This is a very different hotel project than Roedel Companies has ever done before. It typically builds new hotels or renovates branded ones, Schrantz said.
“A historic renovation is a new undertaking for Roedel Companies,” he said. “With that comes a lot of challenges, but at the same time, it’s a very important project because there’s a lot of history with the family and location and the Adirondacks, and what that means to all the folks in the area. So, we’ve taken on a big challenge, and we’re making it happen.”
Between consultants, the design team and contractors and subcontractors, Schrantz said about 250 people are working on the project.
“Right now, things are progressing very quickly,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got a great crew on site, and we’re excited to push to the finish line.”