BEMUS POINT — Plans by a Pittsburgh-area couple to turn the historic Hotel Lenhart into a year-round destination are still very much in the works.
William and Jill Curry told The Post-Journal this week they are 100% committed to taking ownership of the Lakeside Drive property and investing upward of $10 million for renovations and expansion. Their remarks should help to quell concerns from both Bemus Point residents and local officials after new “for sale” signs recently were put up all around the four-story, family-owned hotel.
Earlier this year, the Currys told Bemus Point Village Board members they expected a sale to be completed by April. However, a hiccup in securing the necessary financing to purchase the hotel and begin its modernization has delayed the project’s kickoff.
“It’s been a journey,” Jill Curry said. “We’ve not been able to work an arrangement with anyone locally, which has had us look outside of the community. We had hoped to work with a local lender, but there seems to be interest from folks who finance hospitality. We feel like we’re pretty close here on being able to secure a closing date.”
Bebe Johnston, who co-owns the Hotel Lenhart with her brother, John, acknowledged the sale signs placed around the property. Each one is accompanied by another sign that reads, “Regretfully, the hotel will not be opening the summer of 2023. Please do not use the front porch or front lawn.”
Johnston said she and her brother wanted to put “feelers out” for potential buyers after the Currys’ initial plan to buy the hotel didn’t work out. She said a few people have expressed interest in the property as well as three homes — located at 2 Lenhart Ave., 8 Lenhart Ave., and 32 Alburtus Ave. — the Johnstons also are looking to sell.
However, Johnston said their “main goal” is to sell to the Currys.
“I have a feeling it will go through with them, but we wanted to put the feelers out there,” she told The Post-Journal.
William Curry said the purchase delay does not impact their plans for the hotel. Modernization efforts will include the installation of heating and air conditioning, as well as adding bathrooms to each room, that will make it a year-round tourist destination for the first time in its history.
A state grant the village of Bemus Point applied for toward the renovation project did not come to fruition. However, William Curry said they were notified this week of another grant that has been awarded.
“We plan to inject $10 million into Bemus Point,” he told The Post-Journal. “It’s always been the goal, it’s always been the focus. There’s a lot of people working with us to get the project underway.”
He added, “There was some people very interested in financing this in the local level, but it turned out that when they went to their regional people the money just was not available. … We’re very happy about the progress we’ve made, and I know it’s been a test of patience for a lot of people. There’s a lot of excitement, and we’re just as excited. We just want to get this thing moving.”
William Curry has more than 40 years of experience as a building designer while Jill has been in the hospitality business for 35 years.
In meeting with Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency officials in March, the Currys said the hotel needs significant upgrades in safety. They also want to design the building so it has full access for anyone who comes to the campus.
During the March meeting, an IDA official said the renovation and expansion project will create 65 temporary jobs during construction and 46 full-time equivalent positions when the hotel is ready for operations. That number is expected to increase to 58 full-time positions after three years of operation.