The Center Harbor Inn’s renovation touched every surface of the building, and added several new amenities. (Aaron Usher Photography)
CENTER HARBOR — "This project has been a labor of love four years in the making," said Justin Cutillo, vice president of Steele Hill Resorts, as he prepared to cut the ribbon for the completely-renovated Center Harbor Inn. Cutillo thanked the many partners who helped in the hotel's re-birth, such as town officials and business groups, contractors and lenders.
"Hopefully, it will be a great asset to the town of Center Harbor," he concluded.
The renovation of the Center Harbor Inn was the solution to two problems. The first problem was that the Cutillos, who have operated the 500-acre, hill-top retreat in Sanbornton since 1968, and have been a part of the ownership of Summit Resort in The Weirs in 1989, lacked a lake side property in their hospitality offerings. The purchase of the Center Harbor Inn, which has a sandy beach on Lake Winnipesaukee steps away from the hotel, fills that void.
The second problem was that the Center Harbor Inn, which opened in 1969 and was then described as "luxuriously furnished and attractively decorated," had not aged well. Recent owners had begun offering the rooms at discount rates, and less revenues resulted in deferred maintenance and bare-bones staffing. It was a negative feedback loop that left the inn with a 30 percent occupancy rate, a paltry rate for an inn overlooking Winnipesaukee.
That loop was finally broken in May of last year, when the Cutillo family purchased property and immediately began overhauling the building. The needs were many. Aesthetic problems included worn carpets, cramped bathrooms and outdated décor. More concerning were holes in the balcony boards and floor-to-ceiling mold in some of the beach-level rooms.
The Cutillos paid $1.8 million for the property, and expected to pay about that much again in renovations, which were planned to end by foliage season. However, the building's needs ended up being more extensive than originally anticipated, and the family decided to add more amenities. The work took longer, and cost much more, but Cutillo was beaming on Friday when he cut the ribbon and led tours through the inn.
The renovation, performed by Laconia-based contractor CCI, is apparent from first view of the inn. The plain, white exterior has been replaced with an Adirondack-style façade and gabled roof. Inside, every surface has been changed, including paint, walls and carpeting. Once challenge that the Cutillos faced in planning the renovation was that the interior dimensions, while considered luxurious 50 years ago, are cramped by modern standards. To make the rooms and bathrooms feel more open, the interior design is modern and minialist, with custom-made hickory headboards and shelves tying together the interior and exterior aesthetics.
New amenities include an additional interior stairwell, allowing access to the new sauna, showers and small fitness center on the beach level. Also new, and a few steps away from the 175-foot beach, is an outdoor, four-season hot tub, surrounded by heated stone tiles and offering guests a view of Lake Winnipesaukee while they soak.
Cutillo is also excited about a partnership with Wayfarer Coffee Roasters, the Laconia coffee company, which is providing hot beverages and snacks for guests of the inn.
"We should have the best damn coffee in the Lakes Region," said Cutillo. "A nice cup of coffee is one of the most important things for having a nice guest experience."
The Center Harbor Inn affords Steele Hill with an option that it didn't before, something for guests who want their get-away to be in the middle of it all, within walking distance of the few but nice restaurants and shops of Center Harbor, and a short drive from the more numerous options in Meredith.
Cutillo sees the inn as fitting into the hospitality community of the Meredith area, serving people who want to visit Lake Winnipesaukee, to check out the unique shops and small towns, to hike or ski on trails nearby. Room rates are set to be a slightly more affordable option than those in Meredith. Cutillo said he hopes to work collaboratively, instead of competitively, with other lodgings in the area.
"We hope to complement the hospitality offerings on this north side of the lake, along with what is happening in Meredith," he said. And, he thinks the renovated inn will bear dividends for his new neighbors. "Hopefully it will be a great asset to the town of Center Harbor."
Justin Cutillo, vice president of Steel Hill Resorts, cuts the ribbon for the newly-renovated Center Harbor Inn. The renovation took the better part of a year and cost several million dollars. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
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