By Christine Graf
Spa City Motor Lodge, a 42-room motor inn located at 413 Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs, opened in June after undergoing major renovations.
Formerly known as the Downtowner, the hotel was purchased in 2017 by Lark Hotels, a hotel management and development company located just outside of Boston. The company paid $4.55 million for the property and has invested an undisclosed amount in renovations.
“We love the idea of breathing new life into these great memory maker properties. I think that if you look at Spa City Motor Lodge, it’s really an iconic roadside motel that just happens to be in the best location in Saratoga Springs,” said Blood. “We’ve always been focused on amazing locations, and I can’t think of a more amazing location than downtown Saratoga Springs. You can walk out the door and do almost anything that you want to do.”
After Lark purchased the property in 2017, renovations to the interior of the hotel were made. The most recent renovation included upgrades to the HVAC system, a refresh of the interior, and an entire exterior renovation. The company worked with Phinney Design Group of Saratoga Springs and Sano Rubin Construction of Albany.
The hotel was closed during the six months that the renovations took place.
“Guests are responding very well, and we’ve been getting good feedback. And our neighbors are saying ‘thank you’ for the exterior renovation. That’s been the one missing piece that hasn’t had a refresh in a long time. The façade was not attractive and it had no curb appeal,” said Blood. “We’re so excited that we were able to do that and get it open for the summer.”
Blood described 2020 as a “terrible” year for the hotel industry as a whole but said his company’s properties are experiencing a huge surge in bookings for July and August.
“This year, our pace at nearly every property is ahead of where we were in 2019 at the same time,” he said.”
Lark Hotels has more than 30 hotels in its portfolio, the majority of which are located in New England and the northeast.
“For all of the pre-pandemic years, we focused very squarely on the upper upscale market—individualized lifestyle hotels that are in iconic destinations,” said founder and president Rob Blood.
During the COVID lockdown, Blood said he began feeling nostalgic about the road trips he took with his parents and sister when he was young. He has fond memories of staying in motor lodges throughout the country during the 1980s. After the lockdown was lifted, Blood noticed a market shift in the hotel industry as people began to travel again.
“What’s so interesting about the last year is that motels went from having some kind of stigma to having a little bit of cache,” he said. “Because people were seeking to control their own experience a little bit more during COVID, and motels have exterior entrances and tend not to have a lot of interior public space.”
Although Lark Hotels already owned the Downtowner, Blood recognized an opportunity to expand the company’s portfolio by purchasing additional mid-range properties.
“Recently we launched a new brand called Bluebird by Lark which is focused on making design forward travel accessible for families, groups of friends, adventure-seeking couples, and individuals at more of a mid-scale market pricing,” he said.
For it’s Bluebird properties, the company is focused on acquiring mid-century motor lodges, ski lodges, surf shacks, and other properties that are in need of renovation. Spa City Motor Lodge is the flagship location for Bluebird by Lark, but properties in S. Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and Stowe, Vt., are scheduled to open this summer.
A fourth property in Hunter, N.Y., is expected to open in 2022.
For more information visit www.bluebirdhotels.com and www.larkhotels.com.