OCEAN CITY — The major redevelopment of the downtown recreation complex took another significant step forward this week with the extension of the contract for the project’s designer.
Over the last few years, resort officials have been moving forward with the redevelopment of the downtown recreation complex between 3rd and 4th Streets. The large swath of open space in the otherwise densely developed downtown area has been utilized for many purposes over the years, but it is showing its age in recent years and is generally unpleasing and unwelcoming aesthetically. To that end, the Recreation and Parks Department two years ago initiated a process to begin redeveloping the complex.
With the assistance of the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC), the firm of Mahan and Rykiel was hired to develop concept plans for the park redesign, concept plans that were reviewed and approved by the Mayor and Council earlier this year. On Monday, City Engineer Terry McGean came before the Mayor and Council requesting Mahan and Rykiel’s contract be extended to allow the firm to move on to full design services for the park. The total cost of the design services contract is $216,918, which would be paid for through a future bond issuance.
“It’s a little like putting the cart before the horse,” he said. “We’re asking you to approve the extension of the contract to design the downtown recreation complex, then, you can pass the resolution for the bond issuance.”
McGean explained the contract extension with Mahan and Rykiel would include the design of just about every element of the park complex, save for a few specialized elements.
“The $216,918 covers everything specific designs for the skate park and the playground,” he said. “The design of the playground equipment will be performed by the playground vendor and the skate park will be done internally with a specialized consultant.”
For the east section, the plan includes an expanded skate park, relocating the existing basketball courts the area of the park closest to Philadelphia Avenue and an improved inclusive playground area. The east section would be connected to the west section via the raised pedestrian walkway across St. Louis Avenue. There was some early discussion about closing that portion of St. Louis Avenue, but that idea got little traction.
The section to the west would be less developed and more passive. It includes a vast flexible lawn in the center surrounded by trees for pick-up sports and other events, a playground area, a spot for a pavilion or future temporary band stage for future special events and new restrooms for the entire complex. The recreational fishing areas along the bulkhead would also be retained.
The entire project is expected to cost around $3 million and would be done in phases as funding allows. There are considerable grants and other funding sources available, which could help offset the town’s expense and expedite some phases of the project.
“It will be a multi-phased project,” he said. “The first phase will include the infrastructure of the west park with the field, the fences and the paths,” for example.”
The proposed first phase would include much of the area to the west, which later phases would include the section to the east, including moving the basketball courts and expanding the skate park. The third and final phase would be the construction of the new restrooms, according to the plans presented.
The council voted 7-0 to extend the contract with Mahan and Rykiel. In a separate meausure, the council voted to pay the contract through fund balance, and then reimburse the expenditure through a future bond issuance.