Harrison Group Office Building Project Moves Ahead

OCEAN CITY — The initial site-plan for a proposed two-phase office building for a major resort business group was approved this week for a downtown site that has been home to a miniature golf course for decades.

The Planning Commission on July 6 had before it a site plan review for a proposed significant office building for the Harrison Group, a business that owns and operates several significant hotels and restaurants in the resort. The project is planned for a site on the north side of Kingfish Street at 18th Street on a lot just north of the Holy Savior Catholic Church.

For decades, the site has been home to a Nick’s Mini Golf course but is slated for redevelopment as an office complex for the Harrison Group. The project would be completed in two phases, the first phase proposed to include around 8,000 square feet. The second phase, for which no timetable has yet been provided, would include over 3,000 square feet of additional space, bringing to total square footage of the project to over 11,000 when completed. Zoning Administrator Kay Gordy explained what the commission was looking at.

“This is a review for Phase I,” she said. “Phase II would have to come back for site plan review when they are ready to do that. They have laid out the lot as it would be when both phases are completed.”

Gordy explained the project as proposed as sufficient parking available on site to meet the minimum requirements. Planning Commissioner Lauren Taylor asked what the plan was for the second phase.

“It looks like they have he parking,” she said. “Normally, if a project is phased, we ask for an estimated time of completion for the second phase. The parking availability will define the scope of the second phase.”

Applicant Lauren White, representing Fisher Architecture, the project’s designer, said the first phase will be the most significant element of the overall project.

“With regards to phase II, as you can see there will not be much lot space left after the first phase,” she said. “It will not be a huge expansion.”

Staff and the planning commission expressed a desire to get a bus shelter on the site as part of the redevelopment plan. White said adding a municipal bus shelter in the area proposed could be challenging.

“Providing a bus stop has been discussed,” she said. “It would be difficult to get a bus shelter at that spot as proposed.”

Planning Commissioner Joel Brous suggested a bus shelter could be provided in a different location on the redevelopment site.

“Is there a better area for the bus shelter?” he said. “I think we really need to do something for the bus.”

Planning Commissioner Palmer Gillis said there was precedent for providing a parking exception in exchange for gaining a bus shelter on site. He said the Harrison Group office building project as proposed had an excess of parking, so one space or possibly two could be dedicated to providing a bus shelter.

“At that Hilton, we gave them a one-space credit to get a bus shelter there,” he said. “I would rather have that bus shelter than one more parking space. Right now, you have a surplus of 10 spaces. I believe you can do it with one space, but even if it had to be two, it’s doable.”

White explained the office complex would be different than other commercial properties because people would tend to get there and stay there during the workday.

“People will be coming every day for work,” she said. “It’s a little different than a large hotel with a lot of transient traffic. It’s probably possible to relocate the bus shelter to a different location on the site.”

The planning commission ultimately approved the site plan for the first phase of the office complex.

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.