How far can a $3 million state investment go? In Clayton, NY it helped redevelop a former brownfield site into a luxury hotel helping to jumpstart the local tourism economy. In 2011, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council (NCREDC) recommended the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel for funding as one of its inaugural priority projects. The developers were awarded a $3 million grant from Empire State Development to help with the capital construction costs associated with development of the $23.5 million project. Additionally, the grant required the creation of 90 new full-time equivalent jobs on site. In July 2014, this 105-room hotel held its grand opening, becoming the first full-service hotel in Clayton since Victorian Era hotels disappeared a century ago. The 1000 Islands Harbor hotel features an indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi, and fully-equipped fitness and business centers. The hotel has over 6,000 square feet of conference and banquet space, including a grand ballroom, breakout meeting space and a riverside pre-function area. In addition, the hotel features dining at the Seaway Grille and the 1000 Islands Bar, plus river views and fire pits on the Riverside Patio. Guests are also treated to a professional concierge to assist with business and leisure planning activities.
The hotel offers a regular schedule of special events geared towards both adults and children. The 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel is a boat ride to Boldt and Singer Castles, and a short walk to the Clayton Opera House and the Antique Boat Museum. The hotel has received AAA’s Four Diamonds distinction, which, according to AAA, is reserved for properties that are “refined, stylish with upscale physical attributes, extensive amenities and a high degree of hospitality, service and attention to detail.” Only 5.4% of hotels in the nation make the Four Diamond list. The hotel has been featured in numerous publications and travel blogs including the Travel Channel and Luxury Travel Advisor.
With the hotel’s opening, the town’s taxable lodging sales nearly quadrupled from $1 million to nearly $4 million in 2015. A 2015 survey of visitors to the Thousand Islands showed that the average party spent $1,382 on their visit, with lodging accounting for $459. Based on those averages, the overall incremental spending generated by hotel guests is estimated to be $12 million. The town has also opened a transient boating facility immediately adjacent to the hotel. While mostly used by visitors and locals alike, the dock welcomed thirteen large cruise ship visits in 2015. Existing seasonal shops and restaurants have extended their operating schedules as the hotel attracts guests year-round and several new shops and restaurants have opened in revitalized storefronts. Residential real estate in the village has been bolstered as its attractive waterfront and active downtown have drawn both new residents and vacation home owners to the village. Peak season hospitality and leisure employment in the county rose to 6,000 in 2015, the highest number in 25 years of recorded data.
The hotel was used by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s Lodging Task Force as the model for success of future lodging development in the region. Tourism is an important part of the North Country economy due to its rate of employment and the industry’s projected growth. In 2016 alone, the North Country region hosted over 12 million visitors who spent over $1.1 billion in the regional economy. In 2011, the NCREDC recognized the importance of the tourism economy to the region with its support of the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel – a true success!