Proposed Museum Annex In Downtown OC Discussed

Proposed Museum Annex In Downtown OC Discussed
An image shows an exterior restoration rendering for the former Bank of Ocean City branch. Submitted Rendering

OCEAN CITY — Plans to renovate a historic downtown building donated by a local bank to the Ocean City Lifesaving Station Museum could be getting a jumpstart after the project funding details were revealed this week.

In late December 2019, the Bank of Ocean City closed its downtown branch housed for over a century in a historic building on Dorchester Street and Baltimore Avenue. Rather than have the building sit idle or sell the property, the Bank of Ocean City (BOC) generously donated it to the Ocean City Lifesaving Station Museum, which was experiencing growing pains and desperately needed more space.

Plans to renovate and expand the museum’s historic building at the foot of the Boardwalk were already in the pipeline at the time of the donation, and those plans are still in the works. During Tuesday’s presentation of the fiscal year 2022 capital improvement plan, City Engineer Terry McGean explained the two-part funding request for renovations of the existing museum and its BOC annex on Dorchester Street.

For the original Ocean City Lifesaving Station Museum at the foot of the Boardwalk, the renovation plans include a small addition that would add an elevator and emergency exit stairs, bringing the historic structure into ADA compliance. Currently, the only access to the second floor is a steep, narrow staircase and there is no second-floor access for the disabled, who can only view exhibits on the second floor via a videotape monitor.

Those renovations first appear in the CIP as part of a bond issuance slated for fiscal year 2024 with an anticipated price tag of $580,000, although a project’s appearance in the CIP does not mean the city will provide funding. The CIP is basically a wish list of projects rated as critical, very important or less important. In addition, the Ocean City Lifesaving Station Museum Board of Directors has been diligently exploring grants to fund the project, board president Nancy Howard explained.

The second part of the equation are exterior and interior renovations to the museum’s annex on Dorchester Street donated by the BOC. Museum officials have made improving the exterior of the old bank building its top priority for the annex.

The exterior renovations come with a price tag of around $200,000, while the anticipated conceptual interior renovations could cost an estimated $400,000. Howard said this week if the museum board had its druthers and it came down to a choice between funding renovations to existing building on the Boardwalk or completing the exterior renovations at the bank annex, it would likely choose the latter.

“The museum needs an elevator, an elevator lobby and exit stairs,” she said. “We wouldn’t object to moving that down the list and concentrating on the Bank of Ocean City museum annex.”

The building, located at the corner of Dorchester Street and Baltimore Avenue will ultimately house storage, office space and exhibit space for the museum. Grants received in the current fiscal year will pay for exterior improvements to the old bank building. Howard explained the museum board has applied for state grants for the annex exterior renovations and is confident it will be approved although nothing is etched in stone. She explained the board already has matching funds in place if and when the state grant is approved.

“Really, this shouldn’t cost the city anything,” she said. “We’ve applied for a grant from the state and we have matching funds available. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and I don’t want to jinx it, but it looks like we’re good to go.”

Howard said no firm plans have been developed yet for the interior renovations of the bank annex.

“We haven’t really gotten into what we want to do with the interior yet,” she said.

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.