CONWAY – The demolition of the former Cranmore Fitness Center began on Tuesday to make way for a four-story, 92-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott hotel run by the Lafrance Hospitality Group, which also owns the Residence Inn by Marriott of North Conway.
Belmont’s Opechee Construction began dismantling the building on Tuesday, from back to front, according to Becca Deschenes, marketing manager for Cranmore Mountain Resort.
Known in recent years as Artist Falls Lodge, the 1971 Cranmore Fitness Center closed in August 2019, with Cranmore donating its fitness equipment to a local start-up, CORE, located on East Conway Road.
Two tennis courts have since been rented by a local tennis group who are currently researching other alternatives. It was also used by Cranmore for its tube park ticket sales and food drinks last winter, according to Deschenes.
It was originally an indoor tennis facility built and owned by the late Howard S. Hatch. The outdoor stadium hosted the Volvo International Tennis Tournament from 1975 to 1984, and greats like Jimmy Connors played there. The tournament moved to a hard court in Stratton, Vermont, in 1985 and eventually to New Haven, Connecticut.
The outdoor clay courts at Cranmore were demolished in 2010 to accommodate the tube park.
As for the new hotel, under local zoning regulations, the applicant must set aside 2 acres of land for each planned guesthouse, and Cranmore has dedicated 184 acres of its 814 acres to meet this requirement.
By the time the project received its planning board approval in November 2019, the hotel’s footprint was found to be smaller than that of the old 55,000-square-foot fitness center.
When the hotel project was first announced in 2019, Cranmore President and CEO Wilcox said, âResort hotels are very common in New Hampshire ski resorts and across the country. . Adding a resort hotel in Cranmore would be a natural solution and complement the resort’s offering. “
Lafrance Hospitality Group closed the sale of the property last week, she said.
Richard Lafrance, CEO of Lafrance Hospitality Associates, told The Sun he was eager to open the new hotel and said it would complement Cranmore’s activities year round, both as a ski resort in winter and its summer equipment.
This equipment includes downhill mountain biking (beginner and intermediate). The site is also located at the start of the planned MWV Recreational Trail which will run south along Puddin Pond and the north-south road to Hemlock Lane and beyond, if all goes as planned.
Lafrance added that he expects the Residence Inn in North Conway to lead to referrals between the two hotels.
âWe are going full steam ahead. We hope to open the hotel in the middle of next summer, July 1, probably a 14 month project, âsaid Lafrance.
He noted that, as is the case in all industries these days, there is a labor shortage as well as a challenge in terms of the quantity and price of building materials.
âBut we are optimistic,â he said.
Seeing that he learned to ski in Cranmore as a boy and that his children, grandchildren and now great-grandson all learned to ski there, Lafrance is optimistic about the area.
He said he once owned the Kearsarge home of local ski shop founders Kay and Carroll Reed as a vacation home. In fact, his appreciation for North Conway as a most year-round resort town led his family business to purchase the Marriott in 2016.
In addition to the obvious recreational amenities, Lafrance said his company would look to collaborate on weddings any time of the year and hold business meetings, including in low season.
âWe hope to attract off-season retreats for small businesses. We’re going to be a bit isolated so we think it’s going to have some effect and potentially, you know, we can be a wedding destination both from a mountain perspective and from a hotel to put it all in one. domain, âsaid Lafrance.
He confirmed that the hotel will not have a restaurant other than hot breakfast service for guests.
For other dining options, “we’re hoping that Cranmore can expand their catering business a bit further as planned (as part of the redevelopment of its base area),” said Lafrance.
He said the hotel will include a fitness center for guests, outdoor seating with fire pits, and an indoor pool. He added that there will potentially be reciprocal use of the existing Kearsarge Brook outdoor pool condominiums located near the base of the adjacent Cranmore Tube Park.
âThis needs to be worked out with the Fairbank group,â said Lafrance, referring to Brian and Tyler Fairbank, owners of Cranmore, which they bought in 2010 with Joseph O’Donnell and who have since overseen its redevelopment.
Cranmore earlier this month unveiled its Phase III redevelopment, which will include a new Fairbank Lodge with daytime ski services as well as 15 new Condominium units in Kearsarge Brook. Pending approvals, Cranmore hopes to innovate in this phase in spring 2022.
âThe Fairbank Lodge is the next chapter in improvements that will continue to make Cranmore a progressive and year-round New England ski resort,â said and Wilcox, adding, âThe mix of condominiums with new Ski facilities are a proven model in the ski industry. . “
Lafrance said his company also operates the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Plymouth and Tru by Hilton in Manchester.
âWe have a lot of synergies in New Hampshire, where we can cross-promote our hotels,â he said.
He said the family business began in 1946 when his parents opened a restaurant, which they expanded into a large restaurant in 1955. After graduating from Notre Dame and serving in the military, Lafrance joined the family business in 1972. The company’s first hotel was a Hampton Inn, built in Westport next to the family restaurant in 1989.
The company has five independent restaurants in southern New England and 17 hotels, with another opening in June in Mansfield, Massachusetts. It’s a Fairfield Inn “that’s almost identical to the Cranmore hotel we’re going to build,” Lafrance said.
In addition to the Fairfield Inn in Cranmore, several other hotel projects underway include: upgrading the 69-room Presidential Wing to the Omni Mount Washington Resort; the $ 3.5 million renovation of the White Mountain Hotel & Resort at Hale’s Location, which is slated to reopen over Memorial Day weekend; the four-story, 80-room Home2Suites by Hilton in North Conway, due to open in July; a 114-room, three-story hotel for the site of the former Junge’s Motel; and a 105-room, four-story Viewpoint hotel, which has not yet been approved, on the site of the closed Intervale Motel. This project is expected to return to the Conway Planning Board in August.