|By Lee Procida, The Press of Atlantic
City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 24, 2012--STONE HARBOR -- A boutique hotel set to open early next summer is already accepting reservations for September 2013.
The Reeds at Shelter Haven -- a three-story, 37-room hotel and restaurant -- will replace the historic Shelter Haven Hotel that first opened a century ago. Stretching from 96th Street to 97th Street along Third Avenue, the bayfront property used to be a focal point of the quaint, upscale community.
Owner Dr. John Sprandio, of Philadelphia, said he hopes it will be again.
"Hopefully it will stimulate other business and property owners to imitate what we're doing," he said Thursday.
A large crowd turned out on an unexpectedly hot and sunny afternoon Thursday for the groundbreaking ceremony.
The land has been vacant for years since the former building went into disrepair and was demolished. Sprandio purchased the property with his wife in 1999, and they have gone through several different versions of plans over the years.
Sprandio said he originally planned to reconstruct the historic edifice that once stood there but found that to be impractical. Renderings unveiled Thursday show a modern building with large windows, outdoor balconies and a main entrance at 96th and Third.
Surrounding businesses and community members spoke of the project's importance at Thursday event.
"It is vitally important, and it will change the landscape," said Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt, president of Suasion Communications Group, which is handling public relations for the developers.
An acoustic duo strummed a guitar and a mandolin on the sidewalk, police directed traffic and people snapped pictures of dignitaries smiling under hard hats.
Passers-by stopped to ask what all the people were gathered to see.
Mayor Suzanne Walters said that when the original Shelter Haven Hotel was built, it largely drew development to what is now considered the downtown away from the long-gone train station farther north on the island.
"This changed the downtown of Stone Harbor and made it come to 96th Street," she said.
That was back in 1912, when the population was merely a few hundred people. Today there remain fewer than 900 year-round residents in Stone Harbor, but like all Cape May County shore town there is a dramatic influx of visitors and seasonal residents.
Walters said that when it comes to attracting more visitors in the off-season, the new hotel will be a game-changer, providing banquet space, a first-class restaurant and plenty of room for weddings and other events.
"[Each event] will bring in hundreds of people," she said.
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