Ocean City Today

Council hears annual report from OCDC Director Irwin

By Greg Ellison | Apr 12, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison Chris Trimper, president Ocean City Development Corporation, listens to Executive Director Glenn Irwin, as the pair presented an annual update to the mayor and City Council on Tuesday.

(April 13, 2018) After nearly two decades of championing revitalization efforts downtown, the Ocean City Development Corporation continues its efforts to update buildings, while also addressing the shortage of workforce housing.

Executive Director Glenn Irwin, who presented the City Council an annual update on Tuesday, said the OCDC received the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s “Commitment to Excellence” award last November.

“That was basically for the façade program and our promotion for seasonal housing in Ocean City,” he said.

Irwin said the Façade Improvement Program continues to be the nonprofit’s most successful venture.

“We hit the 200 building mark which is probably the most in the state under the Community Legacy Program,” he said. “We have had 14 projects completed in the last 12 months, which is one of the most ever.”

That figure was slightly stymied by winter weather, which has stretched the completion time for 11 other façade projects in progress.

“It’s probably the most we’ve ever had underway at one time,” he said.

With more than $6 million in private sector investment, Irwin said the façade program leverages private to public funds at a ratio of six to one.

“The state typically requires a one-to-one ratio,” he said.

Since the OCDC’s Green Building Initiative began six years ago, Irwin said 49 projects have been completed to install Energy Star rated doors/windows and cool roofs.

“We’ve had over $800,000 of private investment as a result of this program,” he said.

This year, six green building improvement projects were completed with nine still in progress, Irwin said.

“We have a total of 20 projects underway through those two programs,” he said.

Since launching its Business Assistance Program in 2014, Irwin said the 20 new or expanding stores that have been assisted invested approximately $1.5 million in private funds.

“This is probably our largest leveraging program,” he said. “Every dollar we give out [generates] $13 dollars of private investment.”

The Strategic Demolition Program, which started in 2014 with the Fat Daddy’s mixed-use project, has also continued on a successful course.

“To date we’ve received five grants over the past five years,” he said. “That’s one per year, which very few places in Maryland have been able to do.”

In April 2017, the program helped fund demolishing a building at 16 Baltimore Avenue.

“We received a $65,000 grant to help the owner take down that substandard building,” he said.

With site plans approved, the next step prior to groundbreaking is obtaining a building permit, Irwin said.

“In addition to first-floor retail, it will have 40-50 beds on the upper floors,” he said. “The demand for student housing is tremendous … and this is just one of a couple of projects coming down the line that will help address that demand.”

Another pending demolition project is the Alibi Room building at 501 South Baltimore Ave., which Irwin said received $100,000 in grant funding last year.

“They have site plan approval and right now it’s just a matter of trying to get the financing in place,” he said. “They have not submitted for the building permit yet.”

With demolition tentatively scheduled for fall 2018, Irwin said the first floor would house a bar/restaurant.

“The upper floors will contain about 75 beds for employee housing once it gets completed,” he said.

Irwin also noted that the groundbreaking for the new Cambria Resort and Conference Center at the site of the former Cropper concrete property adjacent to the Route 50 bridge took place in February.

The nonprofit assisted the hotel and restaurant project architects with development standards and planning for a bayside Boardwalk.

When completed, the 133 new hotel rooms would provide a tremendous boost to the tax base, Irwin said.

Irwin also highlighted the new Downtown Alley Lighting Program started in conjunction with the Ocean City Police Department. The pilot program’s first phase targets Washington Lane between fourth and 10th Streets.

“We’ve had about four to five businesses already contact us and we’ve approved one so far,” he said. “OCDC kicked in $5,000 for matching funds and we’ll just see how well it goes.”

Expanding an older building plaque program for downtown structures constructed prior to the 1940s is also on tap this year, Irwin said.

“Ten years ago, we installed bronze plaques on the oldest buildings downtown,” he said. “We just restored all of them and they look almost brand new.”

In addition to the Sunset Park Party Nights, which begin July 5, Irwin said other activities the OCDC has planned this year are the OC Cruzer events on Somerset Plaza, a Brown Box Theatre production on Sept.9 and the Craft Beer Fest on Oct. 27.

Councilwoman Mary Knight asked if there was any consideration given to expanding the footprint of the Craft Beer Fest.

“We know the vendors like it at Sunset Park,” he said.

Last year the event drew about 1,200 people, about one third more than the park capacity, but Irwin said luckily the owners of the adjacent Sea Rocket Adventures agreed to provide overflow space.

“We’ve talked with Shore Craft [Beer] about helping them, or getting another organization to do something in the spring, possibly at the inlet,” he said. “Talks are ongoing.”

Knight said from conversing with attendees at last year’s Craft Beer Fest it appeared a number were from D.C.

“Seventy percent are from out of town … an hour or further away, so you know most of them are staying in town,” Irwin said.

Mayor Rick Meehan also suggested expanding the celebration of hops.

“Have you thought about closing a couple of streets downtown and maybe utilizing those areas … to get it through downtown,” he said. “It’s a great customer base and it’s really good for downtown and Ocean City.”

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