SARANAC LAKE — After more than seven years of planning, development, name changes, ownership changes, a state dredging project — and a pandemic — the Saranac Waterfront Lodge plans to finally open its doors on Nov. 1.
Through those doors is a great room featuring a wood-burning fireplace, enormous chandeliers hanging from a loft ceiling, a granite bar and a deck that looks onto Lake Flower. The 63,000-square-foot, four-floor hotel has 93 rooms, a ballroom and event space, a pub called the Boathouse designed around a massive boat-shaped bar, a second restaurant, a huge professional kitchen, a hot tub and pool and a fitness center.
Furthermore, most of those amenities will be open during COVID-19 restrictions. The fitness center, the second restaurant and the pool and hot tub area will open later, depending on pandemic safety concerns.
The pub opens up onto a long waterfront patio that will have the requisite Adirondack chairs and, eventually, a dock. Meant to seat 120, the restaurant will have a 60-seat capacity for now. It will also have the capacity to seat outside and expand into the adjacent ballroom, where events and holiday meals are to be held. Executive chef David Gross will have a menu of gastropub dishes.
“We designed the pub to be able to flow into the ballroom,” said Andrew Milne, the chief operating officer for Skyward Hospitality, the management company running the hotel.
The property has multiple owners, some of whom have not been publicly named, but Lee Pillsbury and Mark Pacala continue as members of the lead investment group, according to sales and marketing director Carolyn Bordonaro.
Room rates for the opening night range from $191 to $364. They tend to go up on weekends and holidays.
The upside of opening a hotel during a pandemic — and it turns out there is one — is that you can essentially design it to fit the new requirements. So they opened up the dining space to allow for physical distancing between tables and modified the hotel’s ventilation system. The check-in and cleaning procedures of the hotel have also been designed with COVID-19 in mind, rather than having to rework something already in place, as other hotels and restaurants have had to do.
“We made major modifications on what we could after COVID hit,” said Milne. “It was already halfway built.”
The rooms are pale gray and off-white, vaguely Nordic-style — “Adirondack Modern,” said Milne — with Keurig coffee machines, white terrycloth robes, flat-screen televisions and wide king- or queen-size beds.
Outside, the new docks will accommodate 24 boats. More than 100 trees are being planted on the property, including tamaracks, spruce, birch and white cedar. There are electric car-charging stations in the parking lot, which was recently poured with a kind of permeable pavement to accommodate the North Country’s inclement weather.
Though the kitchen and the pool use gas for heating, the rest of the hotel runs on electricity, powered by high-efficiency electric heat and cooling units on the ground floor.
As is fitting for a hotel in Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau’s hometown, there are walk-out balconies attached to five rooms, with views of the lake, and plenty of porch space. Look for kayaks in the summer, said Milne, and, of course, more Adirondack chairs.
“We missed the season,” said Milne, acknowledging that the hotel had hoped to open for the summer months, before the pandemic changed their plans. “I hope we can do great business this winter. There could be a lot of synergy with Winter Carnival,” he said, looking across from the hotel’s front patio across to River Street, where the Ice Palace is traditionally built.
“I think it would be cool to have an ice bar.”