OCEAN CITY — Two buildings in Ocean City recently vacated for different reasons will be repurposed in the next couple of weeks by the Ocean City Fire Department for training before being demolished.
The former World Gym building at 67th Street has now been vacated after the gym owner’s temporary leased expired. The town of Ocean City purchased the property earlier this year and negotiated a lease with the gym owner to keep the healthcare facility open until such time as the city needed it.
In addition, the Whiteside facility at South 1st Street, used for decades by the town’s Public Works department as a sort of public works south complex that housed the Boardwalk tram operation among other things, has outlived its useful life and is ready for demolition. The Whiteside facility has been replaced by the town’s sparkling new public works facility at 2nd Street and St. Louis Avenue, for which the ribbon was cut two weeks ago.
Both the 67th Street gym building and the Whiteside building will soon be demolished, but before that happens, the Ocean City Fire Department will use the facilities for some specialized training opportunities. Assistant Fire Chief Eric Peterson said this week at 67th Street, the department will be utilizing the gym building to large area search training, forcible entry training, deployment of large diameter hand line training for commercial structures and flat roof ventilation. At the Whiteside facility, the department will be working on breaching roll-up doors and breaching metal structures.
Last year, the town of Ocean City purchased the 67th Street gym property for a little over $1.2 million. The 18,000 square-foot property is one piece of a larger puzzle of properties needed for a future water treatment plant.
The existing water treatment plant at 44th Street has been in service for over six decades and has outlived its useful life. To that end, the town has been piece-meal purchasing parcels in the area of 67th Street for the purpose of planning and ultimately building a new water treatment plant.
The property went into foreclosure in 2018 when it became apparent the former owner had fallen into arrears on state and local taxes. As a result, the property was offered at public auction and ultimately purchased by Wells Fargo.
However, because the town, as a municipality, was not eligible to participate in the public auction during a trustee sale, Ocean City officials took the pre-emptive step to begin the condemnation process for the property.
Once Wells Fargo bought the parcel at auction, the town of Ocean City was free to negotiate a fair market price for the property, which has led to the proposed purchase for $1.2 million. However, left in limbo through the process was the gym business itself and its roughly 400 members.
After impassioned pleas to negotiate a lease with the owner to keep the gym open until the town needed it for the water treatment plant, resort officials negotiated a temporary lease with the property owner last year. The lease began in March and expired on Dec. 20. The gym ceased operations in late November and the remaining time on the lease has been utilized to remove equipment and prep for demolition.
As far as the Whiteside facility downtown goes, the facility was built around 1972 and consisted in the early days of just the five bays for the Boardwalk trams. It was later expanded to the south with the addition of two more bays. Interestingly, the name has nothing to do with the color of the facility. Back in 1972, the staff casually began calling the facility Whiteside because the property was purchased from a Mr. Whiteside.