Visitors to the southern New Jersey shore this summer will find several new places to stay after a mix of hotel and motel construction and renovation this off-season.

A sampling of major projects along the coast includes an entirely new boutique hotel in Stone Harbor, a redesigned and rebranded hotel in the Diamond Beach section of Lower Township and a dramatically upgraded motel in Beach Haven.

The business plan behind each was different, but they all hope to offer improved amenities during a season with some uncertainty but also expectations for an increase in visitors possibly looking for shorter stays.

The state Division of Travel and Tourism projects tourist visits statewide to increase by more than 2 percent this year, or nearly 2 million visits, although many may come from last-minute bookings by vacationers who want to wait to see the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

That may turn out to work in favor of hotel and motel owners.

“I think we’re going to get a lot of last-minute, ‘we (have) got to get away for a few days,’ type reservations,” said Steve Tecco, owner of the Armada Motel in Wildwood Crest and president of the Greater Wildwood Hotel/Motel Association.

In Stone Harbor, the Reeds at Shelter Haven luxury hotel, on the southwest corner of 96th Street and Third Avenue, features 37 guest rooms, two restaurants and space for weddings and special events. Construction started last May and will be complete by June 20.

“The thought process or reason why we decided to design this building as a luxury boutique hotel and event space came from an immediate need to bring more people to this charming little seaside town,” said sales director Julie Yeager, “as well as to accommodate the homeowners and existing guests to the area on a whole new level.”

Yeager said they found demand for more upscale, short-term accommodations in the borough, which has motels but no hotels.

“I think people have very busy lives,” she said. “I know, for myself, sometimes it’s hard to get away for a week.”

The dockside hotel is in the footprint of the Shelter Haven Hotel, built in 1912. It later became the Shelter Haven Motel, where the popular Touche nightclub was located, but it was demolished years ago due to disrepair.

Yeager said construction crews have been working hurriedly in recent weeks to get the new hotel ready. They have been taking reservations, including a wedding scheduled in August.

In Diamond Beach, the community just south of Wildwood Crest on Five Mile Beach, the former Pier 6600 hotel on Atlantic Avenue between Rochester and Memphis avenues is being completely redesigned and has been renamed the Hotel Icona. The rebranded building is supposed to reopen in late May.

The 40-year-old structure has been extensively modernized and will have 108 rooms, all of which will be suites. That work has included all new kitchens, cabinets, drapes and carpets.

A new restaurant, Coastal Blue, will open in the hotel, and the building has become fully handicapped accessible.

“It was a property that really was begging to be brought into the modern area,” said Josh McCallen, one of the principals of the development group, Achristavest, which also developed the Grand at Diamond Beach condominium project across the street.

 McCallen said the project has been planned for some time. The goal was to improve the accommodations in what he called a special section of the island.

“We love Diamond Beach,” he said. “We think it’s a perfect enclave here.”

On Long Beach Island, the Sea Shell Resort and Beach Club is an example of a property that saw extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy but took the opportunity to rebuild better.

 Owner Tom Hughes said his property on the beach between Second and Centre streets was completely filled with water, sand and debris after the storm. It took six months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean out and replace much of the first floor, including the 21 rooms on the motel’s bottom level.

“We operated as if it was new construction,” Hughes said.

That included better soundproofing walls between the popular bar and nightclub area and the motel rooms, a project that would have been overly expensive if they were not already gutting the space.

The 53-room, two-story complex reopened in mid-April, Hughes said, with state-of-the-art technology and decor guests expect at high-profile new venues.

Contact Lee Procida:

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