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Community feedback sought in Stockton, N.J.; Historic inn would be expanded


The family that hopes to reopen the Stockton Inn and add an amphitheater and wellness center to the property has asked Stockton Borough to consider redevelopment as a planning tool for the site and has expressed a desire to meet with members of the community to discuss their concerns regarding the proposed project.

Avon Road Partners has a contingent agreement to purchase the inn, a historic icon at the end of Bridge Street, visible to those crossing the Delaware from Center Bridge in Bucks County.

According to the borough’s website, the building was “established in 1710” first as a private residence, and “is believed to have been converted to an inn around 1832.” The now shuttered inn, once a stagecoach stop, attracted New York celebrities during its heyday in the 1930s and ‘40s. It has been memorialized in a song, “There’s a Small Hotel (with a wishing well),” with music by Richard Rodgers.

The family’s plan calls for revitalizing the inn’s restaurant and guest rooms, and adding a new approximately 20,000-square-foot, three-story building, housing guest rooms and a wellness center connected with a passageway to a tented 7,700-square-foot amphitheater with capacity for 980, including guest room, bar and dining room capacity.

The amphitheater would be used for a maximum of 20 to 40 concerts a year, according to siblings Jena and Alan Berman of Avon Road Partners, who spoke about the proposed project recently during an interview via Zoom.

“We’re shooting for summer 2022 to host our first concert. We’re very excited to get this going,” Alan said, adding he has classic rock and smooth jazz concerts by well-recognized names in mind.

The plan has been met with both positive and negative feedback from members of the community, said Jena, a New Hope resident, also known as JB, and the Bermans said they are sensitive to people’s concerns. “We plan throughout this process to hold Q&A’s with (the community) to hear their concerns,” Jenna said.

“Their concerns to us are something that matters. We want to make sure every resident in Stockton and surrounding communities are on board with this,” added Alan, who lives outside Washington, D.C.

Those question and answer sessions would be held in a safe manner, keeping the community’s health in mind during the pandemic, the siblings said.

They added they plan to bring in experts to conduct traffic and noise studies, and to find solutions for those and other matters of concern to neighbors.

“We are going to bring in a lot of people who are smarter than us and alleviate those concerns,” Alan said, adding he wants the process to be a partnership with the community.

An attorney for Avon Road met with Stockton Borough Council, first in December to present Avon Road’s vision for the property, and again on Feb. 8, to formally request council consider redevelopment of the property.

Avon Road has sent out letters to both residents and the business community outlining the family’s plans for the Stockton Inn property. The letters include a link to a video illustrating those plans.

Stockton Borough Administrator/Clerk Michele Hovan said no formal steps have been taken and no applications filed by Avon Road. She said the next step will be a Preliminary Investigation Report by the borough to determine whether the parcels qualify for redevelopment.

“Council has tasked the planning board to prepare that report,” she said. “It’s too soon to know if it’s possible,” she said of redevelopment.

Stockton’s mayor and council have issued a statement of their own, addressed to residents and business owners, dated Feb. 15, and posted on the borough’s website. The statement calls redevelopment “an oft-used planning tool that when done in the spirit of community partnership, can be beneficial to the town, its residents, stakeholders – and the developer – when considering a major improvement such as the one that is the subject of the letter” sent by Avon Road.

“It’s anything but a done deal,” Hovan said. She added that the plan could result in improvements for the town, or it could go nowhere or turn into something substantially different. “This will be a long process,” she added.

The Bermans said their family history is tied in to what they want to do with the Stockton Inn property. Their grandmother operated the Avon Lodge in the Catskills in New York, where entertainers such as Sid Caesar and Mel Brooks once performed.

Jena said the approximately $15 million Avon Road plan stays true to the currently closed Stockton Inn’s history and also offers a viable option to keep it open. It also would offer more than 100 new full- and part-time jobs to area residents, the siblings said.

“When we saw that the Stockton Inn was closed, we saw an opportunity to preserve it to keep it alive,” Jena said. “It’s not historically landmarked. We were shocked.

“We’re trying to get historical landmark status so that it can never be torn down,” she added.

“We have no intention, nor are there any plans, to move or reposition the inn. Our goal is restoration, preservation and securing historic landmark status so that The Stockton Inn will continue for another 300 years.”

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