OCEAN CITY — Worcester County, Ocean City and the entire lower shore did well this week when the latest round of state Community Legacy program awards were announced with $150,000 dedicated to the resort alone.
The state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) on Wednesday announced an award of over $5.5 million in Community Legacy grants to jurisdictions and municipalities all over Maryland for various projects and programs. Worcester County alone was awarded a combined $270,000 for various projects including $150,000 in grants for the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC).
“The OCDC is very pleased with the latest round of grants from Community Legacy,” said Executive Director Glenn Irwin on Wednesday. “Community Legacy is such a major part of our revitalization efforts in Ocean City and the award of these grants kind of validates what we’re doing here.”
The OCDC received a $50,000 Community Legacy grant for the continuation of its downtown façade program. The intent is to provide funding to help downtown property owners restore and rejuvenate the exteriors of their buildings in the area between the Inlet and 17th Street. To date, 134 properties in the downtown area have been enhanced through the façade program, which is rather remarkable because the milestone 100th façade enhancement was completed just last year.
“The façade program has really picked up steam,” said Irwin. “At 134, we have the most in the state using this program. We used to do one or two a year, but now we’re doing 15-20 a year.”
The façade program uses state funding to encourage private reinvestment in property repairs and rehabilitation. Irwin said the Ocean City program represents the likely largest amount of private investment and the life of the program has now included around $4.7 million in public-private investment.
“We have a very strong ratio of private-to-public investment,” he said. “I think every $7 in private investment equals one dollar in public investment. In most areas, the ratio is more like 1:1.”
In the latest round of Community Legacy grant awards announced this week, the OCDC also received another $50,000 for its fledgling Business Assistance Program. Irwin characterized the program as sort of a façade program in reverse.
“It’s a relatively new program for us,” he said. “It allows us to help new businesses with start-up costs and allows us to help existing businesses with upgrades and renovation and rehabilitation projects.”
The OCDC also received another $50,000 Community Legacy grant for St. Louis Ave. enhancements. As part of a larger plan to renovate and rehabilitate the St. Louis Ave. corridor, the OCDC has initiated a plan to install decorative street lights in place of the old cobra-style overhead lights. The plan is to install the decorative street lights in three phases, the first being from 17th to 10th streets from north to south, but the anticipated funding for the project from Community Legacy fell a little short.
“We were hoping for the full $150,000 needed for the first phase, but we got $50,000 this time around,” he said. “We’re going to work with the city to see if we can change the phases or find another funding source.”
Ocean City and the OCDC were just some of the recipients in Worcester County and across the lower shore of Community Legacy grants this week.
Berlin also received $50,000 for its downtown façade program, as did the town of Snow Hill. Pocomoke will receive a $10,000 Community Legacy grant for its MarVa Theater digital cinema server and another $3,000 for the Discovery Center back-up generator.
In addition, Pocomoke will receive a $7,000 grant for repairs to the Sturgis African-American one-room schoolhouse museum. Crisfield will receive $75,000 for downtown infrastructure development and the town of Princess Anne will receive $100,000 for various streetscape construction projects.
The goal of Community Legacy is to provide local governments and community organizations with funding for essential projects aimed at strengthening communities by retaining and attracting businesses, encouraging homeownership and commercial revitalization.
“These awards will go a long way to promoting economic growth, community revitalization, affordable housing and tourism,” said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. “I salute the hard work of the recipients of this year’s awards and their commitment to their communities, which will greatly benefit cities and towns all over our state.”
This year’s grants will benefit 58 projects in 19 counties and Baltimore City.
“Community Legacy is an innovative program that invests in cities and towns throughout our state,” said DHCD Secretary Raymond Skinner. “These awards help create jobs, move local economic development efforts forward and allow neighborhoods to thrive. As these communities prosper, Maryland does as a whole too.”