OCEAN CITY– After more than two decades leading downtown revitalization efforts, the head of the Ocean City Development Corporation will step down in March.
Glenn Irwin, advocate for downtown redevelopment for more than 22 years, will retire from his position as executive director of the Ocean City Development Corp. (OCDC) March 31. While he remains passionate about the revitalization of the resort’s downtown, Irwin said the time had come for him to slow down.
“After 22 years it’s time to back off a little,” Irwin said.
Irwin came to Ocean City in June 2000 after working more than a decade in downtown development in Florida. Though OCDC had just been created, Irwin said the board had the knowledge and dedication needed to get the new entity up and running.
“It was like a who’s who of Ocean City sitting on that board,” Irwin recalled.
He said the launch of OCDC was a turning point for the resort, as officials had talked for decades about the need for downtown revitalization. The creation of OCDC brought the concept to life.
One of OCDC’s first initiatives was to establish downtown design standards so developers were aware of architectural expectations for Ocean City’s downtown. The organization also kicked off its façade program and started promoting public art.
“We were such a new organization we knew we had to do some smaller projects to get going,” Irwin said.
Once OCDC was designated a nonprofit, projects really took off, as the organization was able to fund more once it could receive tax deductible donations and apply for a variety of grants. Today, the nonprofit offers a building improvement program, a green building initiatives program, business assistance, special events, public art and employee housing programs.
“Our scope of work has grown and our scope of projects has expanded,” Irwin said.
Through OCDC’s façade program, 270 buildings have been renovated.
Most of the buildings around the nonprofit’s Dorchester Street headquarters feature improvements made possible with the help of OCDC.
“We have so many great before and after pictures,” Irwin said. “It’s had a pretty significant impact on property taxes too.”
In addition to seeking grants and donations, OCDC participates in a variety of special events throughout the year to raise funds. Those include Sunset Party Nights, OC Bikefest and Sunfest, among others.
“All the money we raise stays downtown,” Irwin said.
In addition to its natural growth, in recent years the organization has absorbed two other entities—the Boardwalk Development Association and the Downtown Association. Those additions have only increased the OCDC partnerships Irwin has been proud to have a role in during the past two decades.
“I think I have the best job in the world,” he said. “The people I work with become good friends. There are just so many good people and organizations here. We have so many great partners.”
The Worcester County Commissioners took the opportunity to thank Irwin for his work through the years as he presented them with OCDC’s annual update last week. Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said he’d been on the OCDC board when Irwin had been hired.
“He has done an outstanding and tremendous job,” Mitrecic said, adding that he appreciated what Irwin had accomplished and how he’d served the community. “You can always put that in your hat, that you made Ocean City a better place.”
He said there were very few people who could drive through the resort and say they’d had a hand in iconic projects.
“Glenn can say that at so many different locations,” Mitrecic said.
Kevin Gibbs, president of OCDC’s board of directors, said his father had also served on the board when Irwin was hired. He said the numerous downtown revitalization projects the public saw during the last two decades had been made possible through Irwin’s dedication.
“It’s because of this guy behind the scenes,” he said. “Everyone’s going to miss him.”
OCDC has selected a new executive director and is finalizing a contract now. Irwin will help introduce his replacement to the role before he officially steps down March 31.