OCEAN CITY – At Monday night’s Mayor and Council meeting, the City Council unanimously approved the resolution approving the application and receipt of financing for Community Legacy Projects in the downtown area of Ocean City.
The approval of the resolution marks the town’s support of the submission of the Ocean City Development Corporation’s (OCDC) application for funding. The application deadline is Oct. 2, and this year the OCDC will be requesting $225,000 for four projects in the downtown area. Three of the four projects will be dedicated to façade and building renovation improvements with the fourth project involving a new downtown entranceway sign.
The Community Legacy Program is a program of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). According to Glenn Irwin, executive director of the OCDC, an area must meet special “distress” criteria designated by the DHCD in order to submit an application for the Community Legacy Program.
According to Irwin, the Community Legacy Program, “is designed to assist urban neighborhoods, suburban communities and small towns that are experiencing decline and disinvestments, but have the potential, with modest public and private investment, to be vibrant places to live and work.”
In the 1990’s Ocean City became a “designated neighborhood,” by the State of Maryland. That classification helped the town as well as the OCDC to designate Ocean City’s downtown area as a Community Legacy Area. In 2001, the Community Legacy Plan was completed for the area from the Inlet to 4th Street. In 2004, the Community Legacy Plan was expanded from 4th Street to 17th Street.
The competitively funded Community Legacy Program was funded last year at $6.5 million, yet received $26 million of funding requests. This year the funding is set at $7 million.
The OCDC has received funding over the years from the DHCD for the OCDC Façade Improvement Program, the South 1st Street streetscape, the Tarry A While Guest House renovation, land acquisition, and the Somerset Plaza renovations, which included improvements such as the street benches, trash receptacles, and archway sign.
This year, the OCDC is requesting funding for four projects. The first is $50,000 for the OCDC Commercial Façade Improvement Program for buildings between the Inlet and 17th Street. According to Irwin, this would essentially be a continuation of the successful façade project that the OCDC has been administering for several years. Irwin later explained that to date there have been 39 façade projects completed under this program. He added that state funds of $285,000 have been used and have generated $1.9 million in private investment in these façade projects.
“The State of Maryland favors revitalization projects that provide high rates of leveraging of public funds” Irwin said.
The second request is $50,000 for the OCDC Commercial Façade Improvement Program for buildings between the Inlet and 17th Street. According to Irwin, this would be a new program that would target exterior improvements to smaller, owner-occupied buildings. This proposal would aim at assisting buildings of six units or less in the downtown area.
The third proposal is for $100,000 for OCDC Major Building Improvements between the Inlet and 17th Street. This would also be a new program and would provide larger amounts of matching funds to existing buildings proposing to complete substantial exterior and interior improvements. Commercial and residential buildings could fit this proposal.
The fourth project requests $25,000 in funding for a new entranceway sign and limited landscaping at the entrance to Ocean City at 111 Caroline Street, the former Manning property that the town purchased earlier this summer after a fire left the home uninhabitable.
Of the four projects, the first three would be required to adhere to the design standards of the town, making building facades facing the Boardwalk ineligible.
“I would like to thank Glenn and the OCDC for what they’ve done downtown,” Councilman Jay Hancock said.
Hancock also noted that he would like to see funding used to revamp the 60- or 70-year-old beach houses in the downtown area so that essentially the old shell would remain, but with a new inside.
The council voted unanimously, with Councilwoman Margaret Pillas absent, to pass the resolution and approve the OCDC submitting four funding requests for the Community Legacy Program.