Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Architect Michael Phinney, LG grad, ex-RPI linebacker, hotel’s go-to guy

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Michael Phinney, of the Phinney Design Group, was the architect for the Queensbury Hotel expansion.

A 1990 Lake George graduate, he said, “I had a history with Tyler [Herrick], we did the Sagamore renovations together. When Tyler got the nod here, he recommended us.”

“This is special because I was born in Glens Falls,” said Mr. Phinney. “I grew up around here…we work all over New England at this point. To have something so close to home…I remember it in its heyday in the 80s.”

He, Mr. Herrick and Ed and Zack Moore created a 5- to 10-year master plan.

It started with “what is your brand? What do you want the brand to be? And that was an interesting conversation because the Queensbury has all this history, it has a historical brand.

“We were able to come up with a plan that they implemented on their side; branding, marketing, graphic design, website, all that stuff. And we’ve got the interior design and architecture to reinforce it.”

He said they started by doing “a bunch of things that make immediate impact — first impression stuff that everybody’s going to touch and feel.”

First, a lobby redesign “that honors the past but embraces the future.”

Mr. Phinney likewise has “a pretty long history with V&H,” the building firm.

“My first experience with them was we did the Lake George firehouse together.”

He said that was a difficult project, but “it got done on time, and they’re just good people to work with.”

Mr. Phinney said, “Architects usually have really big egos. It’s ‘here’s my vision and I hope you all love it.’ That’s not what we’re about.

“We’re about, it’s a team, best ideas rise to the surface, how do we collaborate? Everyone’s got an important part in this thing. How do we get it done together?”

He said balancing aesthetics, cost, and schedule is key.

“And this project was a toughie, because we were dealing with all sorts of supply chain issues. We had to change gears and switch different things.”

Mr. Phinney said he fell in love with architecture at age 15 at Lake George High School. “I was very artistic growing up. But I also was good at science and math. So my guidance counselor said you might want to think about architecture.

“I thought I was going to be an artist. I had an art teacher say, look don’t be an artist. ‘Well why not?’ And he’s like, it’s a tough life. By the time I was 16, I was convinced I was going to be an architect…”

He said that as a high school junior he visited RPI and saw a design studio and said, “I want to go to school here.”

He said RPI had a new head football coach. “And I was in his first recruiting class. He came and recruited me and said I’d really like you to come play football for RPI. I said ‘well you aren’t going to have a hard time, buddy, because I really want to go to school there.’”

He played middle linebacker but gave it up after two years, “because architecture and football is a pretty tough combination it turns out.

“Architecture, especially then, the curriculum is extremely demanding. A lot of all-nighters,” he said.

Mr. Phinney says of the ballroom project, “Tyler said, ‘Listen, if I have a 4- to 500 person space, I can bring conventions here….business to downtown Glens Falls that hasn’t been here in 40 years.’ And he’s doing it, he’s already doing it.”

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