Long-mulled improvements could cost about $3 million with timelines yet unknown
(Jan. 15, 2021) After airing concerns over basketball court placement and prioritizing skate park upgrades, the Ocean City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to authorize a nearly $3 million plan to revitalize the Downtown Recreation Complex on St. Louis Avenue between Third and Fourth streets.
Ocean City Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito told the council the complex plays a vital role in making Ocean City a “livable community.”
After initiating a Vision Study in 2016, followed by multiple community meetings, the project gained momentum in 2019 when the Ocean City Development Corporation agreed to assist with funding the creation of a design concept.
Tom McGilloway, partner with Mahan Rykiel Associates, a landscape architecture design firm based in Baltimore, said feedback from community members and city leadership helped guide the proposal.
In terms of existing facilities, McGilloway said the ballpark sections were generally considered less popular than the skate park, basketball courts and playground area.
McGilloway said the goal is completing the revitalization in phases with ample green space a top priority.
Mayor Rick Meehan questioned the proposed bayside placement of restroom facilities on the park’s southwest corner by Chicago Avenue.
In a letter to the mayor and council, OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin said the concern about blocking water views with bathrooms was raised at the group’s meeting on Jan. 6.
McGilloway said a strong architectural design for the restroom building would be an asset that would frame bay views.
When Meehan asked when work could be completed, Petito said grant opportunities tend to be under $200,000 and suggested the city consider a bond issue to raise the bulk of the $1.3 million cost for phase one.
“It all has to do with funding,” she said.
Meehan also questioned the proposed relocation of basketball courts to the corner of Philadelphia Avenue and Third Street.
Petito said the intent was to move the ball courts away from adjacent residences on Fourth Street and, regardless of their location, are long overdue for replacement.
“We keep patching those but they do need some good hard work,” she said.
Both Meehan and Councilman Lloyd Martin suggested the skate park expansion, which is included as the final phase, should be given higher priority.
“I’ve seen where street skating is more popular than bowl skating in other areas,” Martin said.
Following council’s agreement this week, the revitalization effort is slated for funding consideration in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan for the next fiscal budget.