OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) received the Mayor and Council’s blessing to apply for grants to fund further downtown revitalization, Phase III of decorative lighting on St. Louis Avenue and demolition of the Model Block downtown.
OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin came before the council Monday requesting support for several grant applications starting with State Community Legacy Program funding in the amount of about $209,500 for two revitalization projects.
The first project is the OCDC Façade Improvement Program for buildings between the Inlet and 17th Street, which is the designated Sustainable Communities Area, in total of $75,000.
To date, over 150 downtown buildings have been renovated using this program. The OCDC Green Building Program has been merged into the Façade Program that allows energy efficient products such as Energy Star rated windows and doors and “cool roofs” to be made part of the overall improvements.
The other project is street enhancements to the St. Louis Avenue project in total of about $134,500.
Phase III of the St. Louis Avenue project will be commencing this fall and the total project will be completed over the next two years. The grant will fund decorative lighting fixtures that will pay for the third phase of lighting from 4th Street to North Division St.
The OCDC believes this decorative pedestrian light is a better fit than the much taller cobra head lights for the residential character of St. Louis Avenue. The Phase I and Phase II street light fixtures have been an enhancement to the overall street project and is also consistent with the OCDC goals of improving the pedestrian environment in the downtown area.
In addition to just adding decorative street lights to St. Louis Avenue, the total figures also include adding LED heads to existing lights between the Route 50 Bridge and Somerset Street as well as the 1st Street parking lot. These LED heads are more energy efficient than the existing street light heads and thus will be less costly to operate.
Each year the Community Legacy Program funding is competitive. This year the program has $6 million available, but the pool of applicants is expected to be large. However, the OCDC believes the three requests are all good projects and will yield a high leveraging of state dollars, which the state likes to see in its applications.
Next the OCDC requested approval of a resolution to support OCDC’s application request for Strategic Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Fund grant funds.
The OCDC is seeking grant funding from the State’s Strategic Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Fund in the amount of about $394,000 to demolish nine buildings on the Dorchester/Somerset Street block.
The grant would fund demolition of nine structures on the Dorchester Street/Somerset Street block between
Baltimore and Philadelphia Ave. commonly referred to as the Model Block.
Currently the Model Block holds the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) headquarters and employee housing. Recently the town approved the construction of a new headquarters to be built across the street on the corner of Talbot Street and Philadelphia Avenue.
The OCDC, working with the Town of Ocean City, has long envisioned the assemblage of several properties with the intent of attracting a developer to construct a mixed-use project in the core of the downtown area. Currently, there are eight buildings on city-owned property and the OCDC has a contract to purchase the property with one additional building at 108 Somerset Street.
The OCDC anticipates demolition of these buildings in the fall of 2015 once the OCBP moves into the new headquarters. OCDC will be seeking development interests for this future redevelopment project.
According to Irwin, if the grant funds are approved, it will prevent the organization from having to use Inlet Parking Lot funds, which are allocated to OCDC for revitalization efforts, and if a developer doesn’t come along right away, OCDC plans on using the properties for paid parking following demolition.
As part of the annual Community Legacy Program and Strategic Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Fund Program application, the Town of Ocean City must approve a resolution stating that it supports the submission of the OCDC’s application for funding. This year’s application deadline is July 15 for both requests.
The council voted unanimously to approve both resolutions.