Comfort Station Design Includes Performance Stage

OCEAN CITY- Plans for the replacement of the Caroline Street comfort station were presented this week, revealing an iconic building for the downtown area that will house not only green aspects, but also a performance stage that officials hope will be a focal point for the boardwalk.

City Engineer Terry McGean and architect for the project David Quillin presented the preliminary plans for the project this week. “It is a little different look than what we’ve done in the past,” said McGean, noting their diversion from the typical comfort station design.

The comfort station will stand at the street end of Caroline Street, replacing the current station that sits to the north, in front of several buildings and in close proximity to the firemen’s memorial.

According to McGean, when designing the building they aimed to include green aspects, an activities and entertainment area, and a shaded rest area for people to stop and rest.

The new comfort station will keep some of the former amenities, such as the showers and water fountains. The women’s side will see an increase in the number of fixtures, while the men’s side will remain the same. The major changes however lie within the design, the green aspects, and the addition of the performance stage.

The performance stage will stand between the men and women’s restrooms and will face the ocean. Cascading steps will be on the backside of the stage, providing a place for pedestrians to rest. A changing room for the entertainers will stand along the back of the stage.

A fabric canopy was also presented in the designs, and will provide shading as well as an aesthetic appeal. Quillin noted that the canopy would evoke a beach theme, reminiscent of a beach umbrella or ship sail.

The green aspects of the building range from a vegetated roof to natural lighting. Two, tall solar chimneys will provide a unique look for the building, but ultimately will be utilized to provide light and air flow in an effort to dramatically conserve energy. Airflow through the chimneys will pass along cool, concrete slabs, cooling the bathroom naturally.

Natural lighting will be used through the chimneys as well as through fixed windows, to eliminate the need for electrical lighting during the daytime.

The roofing will also be eco-friendly. The vegetated roof will be rounded and layered with six-inches of soil providing home to dune grasses. “Just how accessible would that very inviting roof be,” questioned Council member Nancy Howard. Quillin explained that the roof would be nine to 10 feet off the ground, making it difficult to get to.

McGean pointed out that the Board of Zoning Appeals, Ocean City Development Corporation and Public Works had all been consulted during the design process. “All of them are very pleased with the design,” he said.

Special Events Coordinator John Sullivan praised the designs, particularly the performance stage. “We endorse this concept, the stage will solve many of the problems that we face now,” he said.

Sullivan noted that entertainers currently have no place to change, a problem that will be solved with the changing room on the new stage. He also noted the significant amount of money, time, and effort that will be saved by having one, fixed stage. Sound issues will also be addressed with the new stage design, Sullivan said, “the sound will be contained and forced out on the beach.”

Sullivan agreed that the building would be an iconic focal point for the boardwalk, giving a central point for entertainment as well as aesthetic appeal. “This is going to draw people to that location. Everyone is going to want to be at that site, whether there’s a show or not.”

Howard said the building as designed would be a nice addition to that area of the Boardwalk. “I think this is a very attractive building,” said Council member Howard.

The council voted unanimously to move forward into the next stages of the project.

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