(May 10, 2019) Demolition began this week on one of the two former World Gym buildings on 67th Street.

While the gym itself will be permitted to remain open through Dec. 31, Absolute Demolition of Ocean City started taking down the large steel building adjacent to it this week to make way for a parking lot. The company has nine calendar days from the start of demolition, which occurred on Wednesday morning, to finish the project.

Wells Fargo Bank acquired the property at a foreclosure auction last year for $1.134 million, and two months later the parcels were sold to the town for about $1.2 million.

The move is part of a more than a decade-long lead-up for the city to build a new water treatment plant in the area.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins said efforts to consolidate land in the area began in 2007. The city is also in the process of a land swap agreement for additional acreage on 66th Street, with Wenzlaff Family LLLP and Advanced Marine.

The City Council on Monday approved a first reading for a zoning amendment to help facilitate that deal, with the area being reclassified a “Bayside Mixed Use District.” Through land swap, the city will acquire additional land for the water treatment plant, while Advanced Marine will expand its operations with additional boat storage.

Adkins said the gym demolition was part of a larger puzzle, years in the making.

Gym demo

The aftermath of a building demolition on 67th Street, Wednesday, as local company Absolute Demolition takes down one of two former World Gym buildings to create a new parking area. The other building will remain in use by the gym until Dec. 31 and then also taken down to pave the way for a new Town of Ocean City Water Treatment Plant. 

“There were multiple parcels that we have been acquiring. Just south of the gym was the VFW, which we bought [and] tore down. We have the gym itself. And then, to the west of the gym, we have Sandpiper Energy’s Property that’s referenced in the franchise agreement for the codebook for acquisition.”

Adkins said the gym area accounts up about a quarter of the overall property that will eventually house the new water treatment plant.

“The gym property actually consists of two different structures,” Adkins said. “We’re about to tear down one structure only, that being the old metal building, and we will be creating a gravel parking lot consisting of 10 dedicated parking places for use by the gym.”

The second building, which houses the actual gym, will allow former World Gym owner Pete Brooks to continue his operations there through Dec. 31, “at which time his lease agreement expires and we will demolish that building in January of 2020,” Adkins said.

He added Brooks and the City Council previously struck an agreement for him to ease the parking lot, for $1,500 per-month through the end of the year.

As for the water treatment plant, that project could begin in the fall of 2023, according to Adkins.

Noting that a dozen years have passed since project planning began, Adkins said, “when you think about some large-scale infrastructure projects, whether you’re building a bridge, building a highway or, in this case, building a water treatment plant, a lot of them are very involved.”

Along with the land acquisition, there were right-of-way issues, and design and permitting procedures.

“Even if we owned all the land today, we could not start building tomorrow,” Adkins said. “We’ve got to complete the entire design and we’ve got to network with the Maryland Department of the Environment, which is the regulatory agency that has to approve the whole design, so it’s a rather cumbersome process.”

Adkins went on to say the city already operates a massive public works complex in the 64th to 66th Street area. The water treatment plant could have been a standalone project, but the area is geographically ideal, because it’s roughly halfway between the inlet and the Maryland-Delaware state line.

“It just so happens to be coincidentally right up against the balance of our complex,” he said. “Fast forward a number of years and we will have the water treatment plant that is located at 14th Street, we have a water treatment plant that is located at 136th Street, and we will have this one, mid-island, on 66th Street.”

Adkins said the mayor and council have been extremely supportive of the project since the start.

“They recognize the value of the overall infrastructure project for many generations to come,” he said.

Josh Davis is an MDDC award-winning editor and reporter at the Bayside Gazette and Ocean City Today newspapers, covering Berlin and Ocean Pines, Maryland. He is the author of three novels, including 'Vanishing is the Last Art' (2012). He lives in Berlin.

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