Friday, January 4 – OCDC Considers New Programs For Downtown Area

OCEAN CITY – In an effort to continue with the Ocean City Development Corporation’s (OCDC) ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Ocean City, two new programs are under consideration.

OCDC President Greg Shockley and OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin presented the Mayor and Council with two potential programs for downtown Ocean City.

The first, a Main Street Program, aims to build on the current efforts in downtown revitalization, while the second, a plaque program, aims to highlight the historical significance of the area.

Main Street Programs are utilized throughout the country in an effort to emphasize and organize downtown revitalization. The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development created Main Street Maryland in 1998 in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center. Maryland currently has 18 Main Street communities, including Salisbury, Easton and Cambridge.

According to the Maryland Main Street Program website, “The program strives to strengthen the economic potential of Maryland’s traditional main streets and neighborhoods. Using a competitive process, Main Street Maryland selects communities who have made a commitment to succeed and helps them improve the economy, appearance and image of their traditional downtown business districts.”

While most Main Street Programs work with specific cities, an Ocean City Main Street Program would function on a county level. Shockley explained that, if Ocean City qualifies, the Main Street Program would operate at a county level, with the four municipalities eligible for participation and one central coordinator for all four.

“It’s a resource to local people trying to create the Main Street experience,” Shockley said.

Although the OCDC already utilizes a variety of its standards, such as downtown design standards, participating in a Main Street Program could bring more to the downtown area.

“We would use more marketing and business recruitment techniques to bring different business types to downtown Ocean City,” Irwin said.

Irwin explained that a Main Street Program would help to categorize the types of businesses that would be most beneficial to downtown Ocean City. Similar to the way downtown Berlin focuses on antique shops and eateries, downtown Ocean City would have a specific business focus.

Although a decision will need to be made on the local level, the decision ultimately lies with the state.

The idea for a plaque program was also presented to the Mayor and Council this week.

“OCDC plans to award 15 to 20 building plaques to older buildings in the downtown area,” Irwin said.

The plaque program would enhance the downtown area by highlighting downtown historical buildings. The Lower Shore Heritage Council provided a grant to the OCDC to help pay for the plaques. According to Irwin, the first step will be contacting several potential building owners to see if they are interested in participating in the plaque program. Irwin noted that the design and actual name of the program would be determined at a later time.

“The OCDC believes this program is a good way to highlight some of the older buildings in the downtown area and complements the Walking Tour Guide of downtown Ocean City that was developed by the Downtown Association several years ago,” Irwin said.

“I think a plaque program is perfect, it fits in with what we’re trying to do downtown,” said Mayor Rick Meehan, noting other efforts, such as the Lifesaving Station Museum, that highlight historical aspects of downtown Ocean City.