OCDC Marks 20th Year, Provides Update On Downtown Efforts

OCEAN CITY — The Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC), a quasi-public organization charged with directing the continued revitalization of the historic downtown area, turns 20 this year and presented its annual update to city officials last week.

According to President Blaine Smith and Executive Director Glenn Irwin, the OCDC’s mission is to oversee several aspects of the ongoing revitalization of the resort’s downtown area. It obtains grants for various initiatives, most notably the highly successful façade program, and holds sway over many major redevelopment projects in the downtown area.

The OCDC also reviews site plans for private sector new development projects proposed downtown, helping to ensure they fit in with the larger goals in the various sections of the downtown area. The organization also oversees demolition and renovation projects and often secures grants and other funding sources to help finance the project.

The OCDC also conducts an extensive public art campaign, has been instrumental in the model block program, which went completed will revitalize and rejuvenate an entire block in the downtown area, and also sponsors various successful special events. In short, the OCDC is essentially the eyes and ears for the city on the revitalization of the downtown area.

Last week’s presentation included an outline of the many initiatives completed in the last year as well as a host of ongoing programs and projects expected to be completed in the coming year. Perhaps the signature initiative for the OCDC is the highly successful façade program. To date, 235 aging and dilapidated buildings in the downtown area have been revitalized through the program, resulting in over $6 million private sector investment in the downtown area. There were 17 projects completed in 2019 along with six more underway thus far this year.

There is also a green element to the OCDC’s efforts. The organization has been able to successfully implement several environmental initiatives with its many projects including Energy Star-rated doors, windows and “cool” roofs. To date, 72 environmentally friendly projects have been completed with seven more already underway. The OCDC’s green initiatives have resulted in $1.1 million in private investment.

The OCDC is also involved in many projects that don’t involve development and redevelopment downtown. For example, the organization is the primary sponsor of a variety of special events including the popular Sunset Park Party Nights and the wildly successful Shore Craft Beer Fest among others. The OCDC is also piloting a program to better light up many of the alleys in downtown Ocean City with matching funds for private-sector participants.

The OCDC also sponsors various public art projects in the resort, including the successful utility box painting project. The OCDC is also exploring the potential to expand its reach further north into the upper downtown area, which would extend it oversight to a larger swath of downtown.

Another key initiative for the OCDC is assisting the private sector with projects that provide much-needed seasonal workforce housing. For example, there is one project at Dorchester Street which, when completed, will add another 55 seasonal housing beds in the downtown area. Another project at 16th Street will add another 40-plus seasonal housing beds next year.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.