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America’s best waterfront hotel is owned by Buffalo hotel developer

Buffalo-based Hart Hotels Inc. won national acclaim from USA Today for one of its trademark waterfront hotels in the Finger Lakes, even as it prepares to start work on two others in Western New York with its longtime partner, Krog Corp.

The 104-room Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, topped the list of the 10 Best Waterfront Hotels in the nation, as rated by readers of national publication USA Today.

In doing so, the AAA-rated four-diamond hotel beat out rivals in Hawaii, Florida, Oregon, Rhode Island and California – a “fantastic collection,” as David P. Hart said.

“We were thrilled to be included in the surprise nomination,” said Hart, CEO of the hotelier. “Winning the contest after a monthlong vote is an incredible honor.”

The four-story Watkins Glen hotel, a $20 million luxury establishment that opened in 2008 with a lakefront patio, is located about 140 miles from Buffalo. It is one of three Harbor Hotels owned by Hart. It is one of only 22 hotels in upstate New York with the four-diamond rating, which it has held since 2010.

The other two Harbor Hotels are in Portland, Maine, which opened in 2002, and in Clayton, N.Y., which opened in July 2014 on the St. Lawrence River. All are managed by Hart, but co-owned with investors, particularly Orchard Park-based Krog, which partnered with Hart on Watkins Glen and the Thousand Islands hotels.

Adding to their portfolio, the two companies are now preparing to break ground next spring on the new Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron, just west of Jamestown, on a 9-acre property with 1,100 feet of lakefront land.

The site, which they already acquired, sits just west of Dunham Avenue and the lighthouse in Celoron, and wraps around the corner jutting into the water. It’s part of the former Celoron Amusement Park, which closed in 1962, although the old foundation wall is still there.

Plans for the new $24 million “destination hotel” call for as many as 130 rooms, with a large ballroom and banquet space, a business center, conference space, both indoor and outdoor pools, a full-service restaurant and bar, and a large outdoor patio. The hotel is expected to open in 2018, after 15 months of construction.

As with the 105-room Thousand Islands hotel, in which Hart and Krog responded to a formal solicitation for developers, the developers applied for and received a state economic development grant, this time for $1.7 million. The project will also receive tax breaks from the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency.

Hart said he expects the new hotel to benefit not only from seasonal summertime travel, but also from corporate and overnight stays during the week because of its proximity to Jamestown, with its 30,000 residents and business community.

He also cited the presence of the Chautauqua Institute, the resorts at Holiday Valley and Peakn Peek, the new Comedy Museum and Hall of Fame in Jamestown, and nearby markets in Pennsylvania and even Ohio.

“There’s so much to access within an hour’s drive or so,” he said.

Hart and Krog are also teaming up for a 114-room independent extended-stay hotel in the former Trico Products Corp. manufacturing and warehouse facility in downtown Buffalo, as part of Krog’s larger $90 million redevelopment project of the 500,000-square-foot complex.

In all, Hart operates 12 hotels, with over 2,000 guest rooms and over 900 employees. That includes four in Western New York, including two Holiday Inn Express locations, a Candlewood Suites and a Doubletree by Hilton. It also owns the Holiday Inn Downtown on Delaware Avenue, but is closing it next month because landlord Benderson Development Co. is not renewing the lease on the property.


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