City Seeks Changes To Boardwalk Comfort Station

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OCEAN CITY – With hopes to break ground on the new Caroline Street Comfort Station in October, the design was turned down once again this week, as the Mayor and City Council seeks additional modifications to uphold the town’s traditional architecture spread.

In November 2011, architect David Quillen and City Engineer Terry McGean presented a proposed design of the new Caroline Street Comfort Station, but the council was not enthused and requested some changes.

At that time, Quillin proposed a design that featured a stage positioned in the center of the building with the restrooms on each side. The stage faced the beach where the audience can set up to watch performances, and the dressing room separates the stage from the Boardwalk. The stage would be covered with a canvas awning stretched tight that wouldn’t move in the wind, and there was a shaded seating area positioned behind the stage on the Boardwalk as well as along the edges of the building.

There were two solar chimneys in the center of the building that would act as green houses. They would collect heat that warms the building and that air will rise out of the building creating a negative pressure in the restrooms. The chimneys will also be available to be lit to create a signal for when a performance is taking place on the stage acting as a beacon drawing in an audience.

The design of the building, which Quillin calls the Caroline Street Performing Arts Stage and Comfort Station, was meant to represent sand dunes, with a vegetated roof or beach grass planted on the roof of the building. The benefit to a vegetated roof is it allows the building to become pervious having rain be absorbed and not creating runoff.

This week Quillin said the goals during the revision were to modify the design to be more similar to other recent city projects, eliminating the vegetated roof, a design with a slightly more traditional in appearance, and keeping with a more “old town Ocean City appearance”.

Ocean City appearance”.

The changes made included the vegetated roof being made into to barrel-vaulted copper standing-seam roof, aluminum window frames and bracing was changed from anodized silver to white to match the arch on Division Street and other recent city projects, end porches were changed to have exposed wood trusses and pigment was added to the concrete to give color.

“Last time we looked at it I think we were very clear to what we referred to as coastal architecture, that was the way we described our existing buildings on Worcester Street, the library, the 15th Street pumping station, all of the buildings we have around town have that look,” Councilman Doug Cymek said. “I guess the only polite word I can use to describe this is it is futuristic. It is not what I see for Ocean City. I would like to see us follow what we have been doing for the last 10 years and stay consistent with that type of architecture.”

Quillen agreed that the design did not follow the precedent set by architecture in downtown Ocean City but referred to the saying “form follows function.” He explained that the function of the building represents a visible space for entertainment, restrooms, durability and minimum maintenance.

“We came at it from analyzing all those different areas and what we got is a design that works with all those levels and I believe very effectively,” he said. “If you come at it from the other side and say ‘what is an old town Ocean City style’ … you will get a surface that may match some of the other buildings but you’re not going to get a really truly functional building out of it.”

Councilman Joe Hall supported the design and failed to understand how it didn’t represent a “seaside theme.”

“It started out as bathrooms and what we have there is a bunker that is built down into the ground,” he said. “This is light years ahead of what we got and while there is traditional seashore architecture there is also community development and sometimes you have to have a tweak what you’re doing.”

Council President Jim Hall said with a few more modifications the design will most likely be approved.

“I think you have the right concept it just needs to be dressed up in colors that look like the things we have downtown, like the lifesaving museum,” he said. “I think you will get unanimous approval, we have some time. Just ginger it up and bring it back to us.”

Joe Hall attempted to approve the design by setting a motion to move forward with the project, but it did not pass in a 5-2 vote, with only Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas in favor.

Next, Knight made a motion to have the design returned to the Mayor and City Council for approval once the changes have been made and the council unanimously agreed.

The suggested changes to be made are to add caps, or gables, to the towers to be consistent with the Boardwalk arch, to add a color scheme to the building to match other city buildings and to explore options to enclose the trusses on the ends of the building rather than the exposed trusses.

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