OCEAN CITY — In a somewhat refreshing twist, at least two of the bids opened for electrical work at the downtown recreation complex renovation project came in under what was budgeted.
In recent years, town officials have been planning for a major redevelopment of the downtown recreation and parks complex along the bayside between 3rd and 4th streets. The large open swath of open space in an otherwise densely developed downtown area has served many purposes over the years but is showing its age and is in need of a major revamp.
Last July, town officials opened bids for the construction phase of the downtown recreation complex renovation, and they came in significantly higher than the $2.2 million budgeted. As a result, the town tossed out those bids and rebid that phase of the project. The second batch of bids opened late last year came in closer to what was budgeted.
Last week, the Mayor and Council voted to award the bid to the successful bidder for the construction element of the first phase of the project at $2.7 million, or about $500,000 higher than what was initially budgeted. The council could live with the higher bid because it would be offset with anticipated grant funding.
During the Jan. 10 work session, bids were opened for the electrical work at the downtown recreation complex. City Manager Terry McGean told the Mayor and Council that segment was budgeted at an estimated $478,000. The low bid came in at just over $401,000, and the second lowest came in at around $471,000, both under the budgeted estimate. A third bid came in at over $690,000. With no discussion, the council voted to acknowledge the bids and remand them to staff for a recommendation.
The park redevelopment will eventually be done in phases, with the first phase covering the infrastructure for both the east and west sections. Included in the first phase will be paths, utilities, stormwater management, landscaping, lighting, the relocation of the basketball courts, the expansion of the Ocean Bowl skate park and the construction of a new skate park office and restroom.
The second phase includes a new playground in the northwest corner of section of the complex on the west side of St. Louis Avenue. The third phase includes new tennis and pickleball courts and new restrooms on the western portion of the complex. The fourth and final phase includes another playground on the western portion of the complex, along with exercise equipment.
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.
A key element in the overall park complex redevelopment is the expansion of the decades-old Ocean Bowl skate park. The plan calls for an upgrade of the existing facility along with the addition of popular street-skate elements. The expansion will take the skate park from its existing 10,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet.