Group Outlines Downtown Plans Including More Weekly Concerts

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) has been in existence for 13 years and through its assistance a considerable amount of improvement has been made to the downtown area.

The OCDC has grown to 11 committees and volunteers have chalked up 7,500 volunteer hours since 2000. This year the OCDC absorbed the Boardwalk Development Association, which added 30 additional new members.

To date, OCDC has played a role in 120 façade programs, including 18 just in the past year, and there are six projects currently underway.

Just a couple weeks ago, it was announced that Ocean City had been designated as part of the Main Street Maryland Program. The Inlet to 4th Street, including the Boardwalk will be the area included within the program. Benefits include training and networking opportunities from the state and other Main Street communities, on-site technical assistance, and promotion by the State of Maryland of Ocean City as a designated Main Street community.

In 2012, the OCDC has received $50,000 in Community Legacy Funding Awards for the façade program and $50,000 for its Green Building Initiatives Program from the State of Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. OCDC has received about $250,000 from the state for the façade program and about $1.5 million in awards and grants.

“This year we celebrated our 100th façade project at the Buckingham Hotel,” OCDC President Todd Ferrante said at last week’s meeting. “We had the governor come down from and help us celebrate and he announced that the OCDC is the number one façade program creator in the State of Maryland for this project.”

OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin reviewed a handful of façade projects that have been completed in the past year, including the Royalton Hotel, Layton’s Family Restaurant, the Ocean Lodge, 107 S. Baltimore Avenue and 204 5th Street.

OCDC’s Green Building Initiatives Program is its newest program, which started last year. The program works very similar to the façade program. It pays one third of the cost of the project up to $5,000 for qualifying businesses. It works on energy efficiency such as Energy Star rated windows and doors, insulation, solar panels, wind turbines and more. There have been 10 completed projects in its first year and there are three projects currently underway.

An example of a Green Building Initiatives Program project is 202 Talbot Street where a “cool roof” was installed. Irwin explained a “cool roof” is made of Energy Star rated reflective shingles.

OCDC currently manages properties that are used for seasonal housing. Properties such as 108 Dorchester Street and 110 Somerset Street house Ocean City Beach Patrol employees. Ferrante proposed to the Mayor and City Council to consider the use of 105 Dorchester Street to be used as seasonal housing for Ocean City police officers, beach patrol as well as Recreation and Parks Department interns.

OCDC is heading into its fifth year in partnership with the Recreation and Parks Department in running Sunset Park and its special events. Irwin said this year Sunset Park will hold the most concerts yet this year, which will be every Thursday night during July and August.

OCDC’s public art program continues to be a success as in the last year a wall mural was painted, by local artist Denny McLeod, on a Talbot Street property, owned by Jerry Greenspan. The mural depicts an automobile showroom looking out onto the beach.

Also, Ocean City Beach Patrol volunteers painted the 17th Street utility box and St. Most Blessed Sacrament School students painted a utility box on Philadelphia Ave. and 17th Street as part of the Utility Box Paint Program.

Ferrante reviewed a list of upcoming downtown projects that include a dugout mural on 3rd Street, continuation of painting utility boxes and a Preakness Party on May 19 to benefit public art.

Concluding OCDC’s presentation the City Council approved the renewal of three leases of public right away on Somerset Plaza as well as the proposal to use property for additional seasonal housing.

Councilwoman Mary Knight took the opportunity while all the players were in the room to address a new initiative, “Light Up Downtown OC”, led by Brian McCarthy of the Downtown Association and the Atlantic B&B.

“Light Up Downtown OC” is a project for the holiday season to draw more attention to the downtown by adding holiday lights. With the assistance of the OCDC, the effort requests city participation to provide electricity and help in gaining supplies.

“I think it is very important … because downtown is not lit up,” Knight said.

Councilman Brent Ashley agreed and said the effort is to bring more activity and lighting to the downtown area during the holiday season.

Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster said that costs associated with the initiative are being considered as the department’s budget is being developed for the next fiscal year, and in the mean time they will work with OCDC to develop feasible ideas to make it happen.