(April 12, 2019) Since its founding in 2000, the Ocean City Development Corporation has championed building improvements, public safety enhancements and the creation of public art throughout the resort.
OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin and President Blaine Smith highlighted the groups’ ongoing efforts during an annual update presented to the City Council this week.
Smith said after nearly two decades in existence, the OCDC has 164 members, a dozen committees and 15 board members.
“Lots of man-hours were given to improve downtown,” he said.
While reviewing the status of several improvement programs intended to assist businesses and residents, Irwin said OCDC might have reached critical mass during 2018.
“I think right now we probably have more going on with our projects than we ever had before,” he said.
Irwin focused first on the façade improvement program, which surpassed the 200-building mark last year and is intended to promote traditional Ocean City architecture design standards.
“We think it’s our best program,” he said. “This year, of the 18 projects, over half of them are landmark total makeover projects,” he said.
With more than $6.4 million in private sector investments, Irwin said the façade program leverages private-to-public funds at a ratio of six to one.
“We had a [board] meeting Wednesday after we submitted this, and I think we approved another five projects,” he said.
Irwin said a dozen projects were completed in 2018 through OCDC’s Green Building Initiative, which was launched in 2012 to install Energy Star-rated doors and windows, plus cool roofs for businesses or residencies.
“The 12 done in 2018 is probably the most we’ve done in one calendar year,” he said.
In total, Irwin said 61 green building projects have been completed since the programs’ inception, which has generated roughly $968,000 in private sector investments.
Turning to the Business Assistance Program, Irwin said help was provided for two-dozen interior improvements projects since 2014, with roughly $1.6 million in private investment.
“This is probably our best leverage project,” he said. “We’re running about $10 of private funds for every public dollar invested.”
Switching to new development, Smith said the Cambria Hotel and Restaurant, which broke ground this February at the former site of Cropper Concrete, is on schedule for completion no later than next year.
“We did not do financial assistance [but] we did participate with the design review,” he said.
Smith said the Cambria’s site plan includes 133 new hotel rooms and a restaurant, which will boost the tax base.
“There were conditions of approval that channeled the design of the project to not cover more than 40 percent of the site [and] the height limit was a consideration,” he said.
Smith said to facilitate development, the multi-acre parcel was rezoned from industrial to inlet district.
Additionally, Smith said the Cambria site plan approval included the company’s pledge to assist OCDC in building a bayside boardwalk.
“They did dedicate along the face of that, up to First Street, a right of way adjacent to their property,” he said. “It’s going to be a nice pedestrian promenade along there that can be used by the public and the hotel.”
Irwin also dispelled one of the more intriguing rumors surrounding the Cambria site plan.
“The top of the building is not going to be a helipad and it’s not a rotating restaurant,” he said.
Coming back to ground level, Smith highlighted OCDC’s public art program, which has led to 32 utility boxes painted with various scenes and another three with paint still drying.
“One of our tasks is to create as much public art as we can,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of interest in doing that from the private and the business sector.”
Irwin next shifted from adding a dash of color to improved illumination while discussing the relatively new downtown alley lighting program.
Since kicking off last year, Irwin said three businesses have participated in the alley lighting initiative, which initially targeted Washington Lane but has been expanded to include Wilmington Lane this year.
Irwin also previewed OCDC’s slate of special events scheduled for 2019.
Continuing a popular concert series, Sunset Park Party Nights will be held on Thursday nights beginning at 7 p.m. between July 11 and Aug 29, Irwin said.
Other events slated for 2018 are, Four OC Cruzers events at Somerset Plaza and the Craft Beer Festival on Oct. 26.
Irwin said the events are produced in conjunction with the city’s Special Events Department.
“It’s a pretty good partnership we have with (Special Events Director) Frank Miller and his group,” he said.
Among the actions Irwin requested of the council were: approving a display lease and table agreement in the public right of way of Somerset Plaza and authorizing OCDC to dedicate those lease payments to finance special events.
Lastly, Irwin asked the council to help select locations for a half-dozen proposed directory panels for businesses off the Boardwalk. Seven such panels are in place.
“Our long-term plan was to create off-the-Boardwalk directories to help businesses get identified that are on the inner blocks and the bay side,” he said.
OCDC’s 19th annual meeting and awards ceremony takes place on May 8 at Shenanigan’s Irish Pub on the Boardwalk by Fourth Street.