by Karen Hailson Bouvier | Photo supplied
Issue: April 2022
“Winter has been good for us,” said John Berndt, General Manager, as he described Saranac Waterfront Lodge’s first full winter in business. “There were many more cold days this year than last and the Ice Palace, combined with school breaks in New York State and Vermont meant we had better occupancy than we had hoped. We are fortunate to be ahead of the budget in January and February on both occupancy and rate.”
One of the Lodge’s owners, Lee Pillsbury, invited his longstanding colleague Berndt, a graduate of Cornell University with a degree in Hotel Management, to join the hotel’s management team in 2021. Berndt brings decades of experience managing Ritz-Carleton, Cipriani, Westin, and Hyatt hotels in Manhattan and throughout North America and Asia.
“It’s a pleasure to work in such a well-built, new facility,” Berndt emphasized. “Customers who are looking for discriminating service and economical rates—affordable luxury—will find both here. We are near Lake Placid (within seven miles), but offer a less congested alternative. And there is a lot to do here. We are very proud of our water sports, entertainment, art and culture programs, and lawn and lakeside activities, not to mention our Boathouse Pub and Harvest dining facilities. Our 3,000 square foot ballroom and four-season waterfront event space appeals to corporate retreats, association groups, weddings, family gatherings, and other social events.”
THE ADIRONDACKS’ NEWEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL
The four-story, 63,000 square foot lodge, at 250 Lake Flower Avenue, a few miles from the Saranac Lake Golf course, is situated on the curve of shimmering lake. Its V-shape design placing it literally on the lake means at least half of the rooms and all of the common areas have a view. As the only full-service waterfront property on Lake Flower, the Lodge offers 93 guest rooms, three waterfront restaurants, an indoor heated pool and hot tub, lakeside fire pits, and a private marina. Its Boathouse Pub (named for its massive boat-shaped bar), offers light fare and regional craft brews, while the Navigator’s Lounge is the perfect spot for drinks or a simple meal. Harvest is an intimate fine-dining venue that highlights locally sourced ingredients.
“We’re surrounded by older, more iconic resorts,” explained Berndt, “but our setting on the lake and affordability is what separates us from the competition. We’re a great place to get away and yet still be in the heart of the Adirondacks.”
Speaking of water sports, the Lodge offers rentals for pontoon boats, jet skis, paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks. For those who want drier exercise, the Lodge has a first-class fitness center. Extensive porches, balconies and over 100 trees planted on the property, including tamaracks, spruce, birch, and white cedar, give visitors additional ways to enjoy nature. Downtown Saranac Lake village is a short walk away.
However, getting to where the Lodge is today wasn’t without unexpected challenges and delays.
THE CONSTRUCTION TIMELINE
Overall, the construction of Saranac Waterfront Lodge took seven years of planning and development under multiple owners and names, and a state dredging project. There was also the accompanying discussion, debate, paperwork, and planning. In the end, three hotels were demolished to make way for construction on property serendipitously situated between Lake Flower and Lake Flower Avenue in the Village of Saranac Lake.
Due to unforeseen factors, the construction timeline was unpredictable and challenging:
End of 2019. Ground is broken for construction.
May 2020. Planned opening; delayed by the COVID pandemic. Plans for re-design to accommodate pandemic restrictions were begun.
October 2020. Redesign to incorporate COVID safety requirements completed. (Some of this included opening up the dining room, reducing the number of seats in the restaurants and ballroom, and modifying the ventilation system.)
November 2020. Grand Re-Opening.
January 2021. Fire breaks out in a second-floor heating and air conditioning unit. The Lodge is shut down for smoke and water damage after only 50 days of operation.
May 2021. Repairs are completed and the Lodge re-opens.
October 2021. Received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) award, Silver rating. (See below the article for a description of the significance of this prestigious award and how the Lodge earned it.)
“The first winter was the most challenging,” disclosed Berndt. We were only open a short period of time before the fire. We have also had some heating system issues. They have been repaired; however, and we’re doing very well now.”
Berndt credits Collin Rostohar of BBL Construction Services of Albany, contractor for the last five years. “This project was a difficult build in terms of design both architecturally and mechanically. Many construction standards were modified to accommodate unique construction scenarios,” said Rostohar. “We also learned that the Saranac Lake climate can be pretty brutal for working outdoors.”
“We could not have done it without him and his work crew,” said Berndt.
S’MORES KITS UPON ARRIVAL
To encourage visitors to enjoy the location and outdoors as soon as they check in, each person is given a “S’Mores Kit” – ingredients to make the delicious snack made of graham crackers, marshmallow and chocolate, best cooked on an outdoor flame.
Once they have taken in the view and re-charged after a delicious repast, visitors can browse the art gallery in the lobby. Organized by a local curator, the current collection features 16 artists. The
selections change every 60 days; the artists and mediums vary as well.
With an innovative menu of culturally enriching activities to offer visitors, the chef and staff of Harvest regularly host food and beverage “’centric” activities. Connecting with a local theatre group,
the Lodge was able to offer a murder-mystery dinner theatre show on a recent weekend.
The number of staff varies seasonally between 49-89, and Berndt is understandably proud of them. “Our staff is gregarious, engaging and enthusiastic about activities and amenities for our visitors.
They are very welcoming. Visitors develop relationships with them, and come back again and again. Their pets are also welcome.”
Saranac Waterfront Lodge
250 Lake Flower Avenue
Saranac Lake, NY 12983
LEADERSHIP IN ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN (LEED)
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and an international symbol of excellence. Through design, construction and operations practices that improve environmental and human health, LEED-certified buildings are helping to make the world more sustainable.
Saranac Waterfront Lodge is the first and only hotel in the Adirondacks to achieve this distinction.
How did they do it?
Although the kitchen and the pool use gas for heating, the rest of the Lodge runs on electricity, powered by high-efficiency electric heat and cooling units on the ground floor. They implemented an eco-conscious infrastructure and green initiatives across the property, including:
• Green cleaning products
• Bicycle racks and electric car chargers
• Environmental remediation such as lakefront cleanup
• Farm-to-table relationships with local farmers and food purveyors
• Completely Styrofoam and plastic-free restaurants
• Eco-friendly bath amenities
• Water conservation through efficient water fixtures and metering
• Energy efficient appliances, LED lights on property and motion-sensored guest room lights