Roth and Dubb Bring New Level of Luxury to Downtown Saratoga

The Adelphi Hotel in downtown Saratoga Diana Pikulski

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While racing draws thousands of visitors to Saratoga Springs every summer, its biggest appeal day in and day out, 12 months a year, is its graceful, bustling downtown. The city is rich in history, dating back to the 1770s and the Victorian style lends a charm that Saratoga not only strives to maintain, but often mandates through historic preservation codes.

Two buildings on Broadway in Saratoga Springs are now undergoing a huge transformation without losing their historic charm. The Adelphi Hotel, which recently underwent a major renovation, will be merged with the adjacent Rip Van Dam Hotel, expanding the number of luxury hotel rooms from 33 to 78 and adding 85 luxury apartments to the Rip Van Dam.

“We bought the Adelphi in about 2013,” said Larry Roth, a partner with his wife and daughter in LNJ Foxwoods Stable. “It was me and another group that is no longer involved with the Adelphi. The Adelphi at that time was a rundown hotel. It was owned by two individuals that graduated from Skidmore probably in the 1960s. They had the hotel only open two months a year. The rest of the other 10 months of the year, they would travel around the world finding antiques and bringing the antiques back to the hotel. So, when we bought the hotel in 2013, it was really run down, full of thousands of antiques, and we decided that we were going to run it for a year or two and then we were going to renovate it.”

Saratoga's appeal and its offerings have expanded far beyond the track.

In a small geographic area of just 28 square miles, the City of Saratoga Springs boasts the oldest operating racecourse in the U.S., a harness track and casino, a 2,379-acre state park, four golf courses, a top concert and ballet and orchestra venue, a 6.178 square mile lake, historic mineral springs and baths, two colleges, and a 171-bed hospital.

In 1977, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation was organized partly in reaction to the building of the shopping mall just north of the city limits. By protecting the historic facades and buildings downtown, Broadway and its adjoining streets have continued to maintain viable retail businesses and acclaimed restaurants and pubs when many upstate downtown districts have dried up.

The initial renovation of the Adelphi took years and two or three times what the group expected to pay, Roth said, but it re-opened in 2017 to great acclaim. But looming on the south side of the Adelphi was the Rip Van Dam, which had been through a tumultuous era of turnover and suffered from what seemed like a lack of vision and funding. It made sense to Roth that they purchase the Van Dam, which was in need of repair on the same scale. His partners did not share the vision.

“Their philosophy was not the same as mine,” said Roth. “I told them that I think we should buy the Rip Van Dam because the Rip Van Dam had a lot of property. Someone's going to build something there, a hotel, an apartment building, and you don't want to really compete with another hotel. They said to me, 'You're wrong, no one's going to build there.'”

So, in 2019, Roth bought out his partners, became the sole owner of the Adelphi, and bought the Rip Van Dam.

“That's when Michael [Dubb] got involved with me,” said Roth. “I knew Mike was in the horse business and I knew he was a great builder. So, I thought it'd be good to find out if he would be interested in working with me, being my partner on this project.”

“Larry and I had known each other for years,” said Dubb. “And we have a very close mutual friend. And, you know, when Larry correctly purchased the Rip Van Dam property to protect his investment at the Adelphi so he could control it, and that was a very smart move.

“It's a major undertaking. And given my knowledge of Saratoga, my years at Saratoga, and my knowledge of construction, having built buildings like this before, although not 180-year-old buildings, Larry thought it would be a good idea for us to talk. And that's how the partnership was born.”

“Our vision is to just have the most luxurious five-star hotel residence, restaurants, a destination point for people coming from either New York City, Boston, Montreal, Buffalo,” said Roth. “It's all almost equal distance, about a three-hour ride from those locations. And just to have the number one destination in the Northeast.”

“For any city, a vibrant downtown is vital,” said former two-term Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Joanne Yepsen. “This city is successful because we care deeply about historic preservation and we have an appointed design review commission overseeing proposed development on top of a planning and zoning process.

“This project is a diamond in the rough,” said Dubb. “Saratoga is arguably the best town or small city in New York State. It's a one-of-a-kind town, and this is a one-of-a-kind project right in the heart of town. The plan we had was to model this after The Plaza in New York City where you have a five-star hotel, but you also have residences. And the people who live in the residences can avail themselves and do avail themselves of all the hotel services. So here, there are two restaurants here which they would walk directly to through the building. There'll be a gym. There'll be lounges for the guests and the owners, a business center, and underground parking.”

The plan for the condominium apartments will be a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom luxury apartments appointed with hardwood floors, state-of-the-art kitchens, great appliances, marble bathrooms, and molding details. Each owner will have their own storage unit and a coveted parking spot underneath the building. The new hotel rooms will mirror the existing rooms at the Adelphi.

“The hotel units will be and are obviously very, very, very high-level luxury units,” said Dubb. “So, there'll be heated bathroom floors, automatic blinds, suite-type living. Some of the new hotel rooms will have their own den and just all of the services and all the luxury that you would expect in a five-star hotel.”

In addition to the new hotel rooms and residences, there have been significant changes and upgrades to the common areas of the hotels, with more in the plan.

“We've increased the ballroom space. So, the capacity went from about 125 people to 225 people,” said Dubb. “That project is done. We've increased the size of Morrisey's, put additional indoor dining rooms in, and also a sushi bar. And that project is done. The Salt and Char Restaurant, which is part of the building, is through phase one and the interiors of the existing Salt and Char has been completely rebuilt. But as construction progresses, there'll be another dining room, about 800 square feet–state of the art. You know, with that real steakhouse feel, to go with the great food.

“In the original Adelphi, part of the lobby space was lost to the kitchen. The kitchen is moving away into the new structure. So, the lobby of the Adelphi now, which is beautiful, is going to double in size.”

While both Dubb and Roth are deeply ensconced in the upper echelons of the horse business, they've committed to the City of Saratoga and its growing year-round clientele with the Adelphi-Van Dam project. The underground parking garage for 100 cars, and major street and sidewalk and infrastructure improvements add to the entire downtown experience. And both partners are bullish on the long-term success of the project outside of the racing months.

“It's not just the racing industry,” said Roth. “We've been extremely busy even during the off-season. Our occupancy during the off-season runs probably about 70%. During the track season, we're running very close to 100%. Obviously, the July and August period is peak for us. But the rest of the year has, for the last year and a half, two years, has been truly outstanding.”

Preserving the historic façade and feel of the buildings seems to be more of a passion to the partners than a city requirement.

“The architecture and the character are beautiful. One great thing about Saratoga is its intense dedication to preserving its historic feel and its historic character,” said Dubb. “You really feel like you're back in the early 1900s, in the late 1800s. And one thing we went to painstaking lengths to do is to preserve the entire facade of the existing Rip Van Dam Hotel. And previously, Larry did the same thing with the Adelphi Hotel. So, from the street, you know, I see turn-of-the-century pictures, not this century, the century before. And the facade will look just the same as it looked then.”

“The town is very pro-historical sites here,” said Roth. “We went before the board a number of times to show them what we're doing. We made some revisions after they suggested we make some changes that they wanted us to do and we adhered to what they wanted us to do.”

What is the timeline?

“After we finish Salt and Char, we will be looking to get the next group of hotel rooms, some online for late fall this year, others on time for track season,” said Dubb.  “And that will be followed by the construction of the 85 condominiums. We're looking at a time frame for completion of about 18 months. So, we'd be looking in its entirety at early '24.”

The lure of Saratoga Springs, the two hotels so steeped in American history, and the racing industry at the Spa seem to give Roth and Dubb a deep sense of pride in the project. It was palpable as we walked around the busy establishment while they interacted with the staff and patrons. Individually and together, they appear relaxed and excited about what seems like a massive undertaking (and crater) in the middle of downtown.

“The combination, first the Adelphi, and then the Rip Van Dam and the adjoining land, is really a unique opportunity to marry two historic, legendary buildings together into one,” said Dubb. “A state-of-the-art five-star luxury hotel and residence building- nothing like this really exists in Saratoga and very few places like this exist anywhere in New York. So, this was really a unique opportunity. And when Larry reached out to me about it, my connection with Saratoga, you know, runs 50 years. And so, I've walked by these hotels for 50 years. I never dreamt I would have the opportunity to be involved and really make a difference in the City of Saratoga.”

“I don't think I could have picked a better partner,” said Roth. “He is, first of all, a great friend. I think we have the same vision. We think alike. Being with him for the last two years on this project, I have learned so much from him about building, and I think even our contractor has learned a lot from Michael. He's made a lot of suggestions to our contractor, which have panned out successfully.”

“I told Larry when we started, that it would be two very challenging years to build the building,” said Dubb. “COVID turned that into three and a half years. So, it's challenging. I think we enjoy the challenge and I know when all is said and done, Larry and I are going to stand on Broadway, look up and be just the two proudest guys in Saratoga.”

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