OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) received $215,000 in grants last week from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to revitalize the downtown area south of 17th Street.
“The Community Legacy and Strategic Demolition Fund programs are two of the department’s most powerful programs for building healthier neighborhoods in Maryland,” DHCD Secretary Kenneth Holt said in a statement. “Whether it’s improving the facades on Maryland main streets, preserving historic buildings or removing blight, these projects will enhance neighborhoods across the state.”
The Community Legacy Program, a grant dedicated to filling the financial gaps in local government and community development projects, awarded the OCDC $50,000 for each of its three programs — Façade Improvement, Green Building Initiatives and Business Assistance.
The second grant, the Strategic Demolition Fund, awarded the corporation $65,000 to implement a mixed-use project at 16 Baltimore Ave.
“These grants are very competitive and OCDC is very fortunate to receive funds for all four of the grant applications that we applied for this year,” Executive Director Glenn Irwin said.
The OCDC has supported 186 façade improvement and 38 green building projects to date, according to Irwin. But he estimates the grant money will allow the façade improvement program to assist 10 or more business and property owners in fiscal year 2017.
Currently, for every dollar the OCDC invests in the three programs, the business and residential owners spend an additional $2 to $6, depending on the project, according to Irwin. This investment, he said, is significantly higher than the average national ratio of 1-to-1.
“The best evidence of spending money is how we have spent them in a timely and effective fashion,” Irwin said. “We have great leveraging of private funds to public funds.”
The OCDC has received grant funding for its Façade Improvement Program since 2002, and in recent years has received grants for four demolition projects, including this year’s venture on Baltimore Avenue.
In fiscal year 2017, building owner Lorenda Birch has plans to demolish her current structure and replace it with a mixed-use building, Irwin said. The first floor will contain retail space and the second and third floors will have employee housing.
“It’s a really small project, but it has a significant impact on the downtown area,” he said.
The three prior demolition grants went to projects on South Baltimore Avenue and Dorchester Street, 11th Street and the Boardwalk and Somerset Street between South Baltimore and South Philadelphia Avenues, where Fat Daddy’s, the upcoming Royalton Hotel and a parking lot now reside.
“We’ve been able to spend it in a quick fashion,” Irwin said.
The OCDC applied for the four grants in July of this year, and secured three of the 49 Community Legacy grants and one of the 15 Strategic Demolition grants.
Irwin said the OCDC will announce the new funding opportunities to business and resident owners soon, but said the corporation will not receive the grant money until it is reimbursed by the state.
Three government entities in Worcester and Wicomico Counties also received Community Legacy grants through the state.
The Town of Snow Hill and Pocomoke received $60,000 and $50,000 respectively for commercial and mixed-used buildings, and The City of Salisbury received $50,000 for a building rehabilitation program within the Downtown Historic District.
Irwin said the OCDC has invested $5.7 million into the Façade Improvement Program since its genesis, and grant money will now add to their investments in each program.
The façade improvement program provides a proportion of funds to exterior improvements, whereas the business assistance program provides money for fixed interior improvements. The green building initiative provides funds for energy-efficient improvements
“We’ve been very pleased with these grants,” Irwin said.