By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Sonya Marler, general manager of Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill on Flagler Avenue, is among the local business people excited to see the Hampton Inn opening this month.
"It's beautiful and will bring more people to Flagler Avenue," said Ms. Marler as she stopped in the hotel last week to see the progress.
"It's even prettier in person," she said.
On that day, mattresses were stacked everywhere and a long bar, made of Monkey Pod wood in Bali, was being installed as a centerpiece in the lobby.
The hotel, the first on Flagler Avenue in many years, has been a five-year project for David Swentor of Premier Development Group of Charleston.
While facing opposition from a few residents early on, he said all the votes taken by local officials on various issues were approved.
"We always had the support of the city. It just took a long time to go through the process."
Mr. Swentor said the company made every effort to blend the hotel in with the Florida architecture on Flagler Avenue.
"Hilton gave us the latitude to customize the hotel," Mr. Swentor said.
The 112-room hotel is on two acres of land with parking available for 92 cars.
Reservations for the Florida vernacular style hotel can be made beginning Thursday, Dec. 20, said Mr. Swentor, acting like a proud father whose child had finally arrived.
He was pleased with the turnout of 200-plus at a job fair two months ago. Easily 75 percent were qualified, he said.
"We had a wonderful job pool we pulled from. So many people had hotel experience. That also makes the learning curve shorter for new employees," he said.
Mr. Swentor's family has been in New Smyrna Beach for 40 years and his mother went to New Smyrna Beach High School.
He's been looking for property in the city for many years.
The hotel doesn't have a restaurant, but will serve a hot breakfast in the morning and cookies at night starting in January.
Melody Crosby, an esthetician at Advanced Beauty Care Day Spa on Flagler Avenue, was another curiosity seeker.
"I heard great things about the hotel and it will help everyone," she said.
Among the guest amenities are a state-of-the-art fitness center, laundry facilites and an outdoor pool.
Mr. Swentor is especially proud of the energy-efficient features in the new hotel. The sustainable building consumes less power and water than most hotels, he said.
"We spend more on the front end to spend less over the years," Mr. Swentor said.
The developer used the guidelines of the Green LEED Certification Process for Sustainable Buildings.
The saline pool reduces chemical use and water evaporation, and a 3,000-gallon underground tank stores rainwater for irrigation.
Most of the live oak trees on the property were saved, Mr. Swentor said.
Also, thousands of dollars in palm trees, sea grapes and other materials were added. Hedges planted along the residential streets separate the hotel from neighboring properties.
Energy conservation efforts have been made throughout the interior, including 14 watt LED bulbs, positive pressure air conditioning and a system requiring guests to insert their room key to use the electricity in order to prevent waste while not in the room. Laundry will be done with washing machines that spin at 2,600 rpm to lower drying time. All of these efforts have earned the Hampton Inn a LEED certification.
One thing not in place yet is the gazebo from the Flagler Avenue Boardwalk that Mr. Swentor purchased for $500 from the city. It is being refurbished, he said, and will be used for weddings in the courtyard.
Khalid Resheidat, New Smyrna Beach assistant city manager, has been working with Mr. Swentor on the project.
"We are glad and happy to see this project completed successfully," Mr. Resheidat said. "We believe it will generate and boost the economy for the city and is a very much needed project.
"I have to give David Swentor and his group a lot of credit for working with us on meeting all the challenges and for designing a project that addresses all our concerns," he said.
Mr. Swentor said he is personally proud to bring his craft to New Smyrna Beach.
"My children, Madeline, 10, and Garrett, 8, have already picked out their rooms."
And business on Flagler already is picking up.
The Salty Dune Coastal Kitchen just opened next door to the Hampton Inn.