(Nov. 21, 2014) Development in Ocean City is building back up – quite literally.
Preliminary discussions were held this week on a proposal to construct a 15-story tower of hotel rooms on 34th Street as an addition to the existing beachfront Quality Inn.
“We’re able to get all the units oceanfront, while leaving the vast majority of the area open so we’ll have more landscaping, light, and air for the neighborhood,” said architect Jack Mumford. “The existing Quality Inn will be supported with this new tower, which will consist of rooms and nothing else.”
Plans for the site, reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday, are not final, and will have to come back to both the commission and the town council.
The project is being pitched as a Planned Overlay District under the city’s zoning code, which allows for consolidation of height and density rights on larger properties with the express approval of both voting bodies.
“The process would have to go to the council eventually, with your recommendation,” town Zoning Administrator R. Blaine Smith told the commission.
A site must have at least 90,000 square feet of surface area to qualify for a planned overlay application, Smith said, which would be met if the current Quality Inn parcel was merged with the vacant parcel next to it, where the tower is proposed to go.
The new building, housing 101 hotel rooms, will be located facing the beach just north of the existing Quality Inn, and connected to the current hotel’s lobby by a corridor.
The empty lot, located behind the 33rd Street shopping center, is often used as overflow parking for Anthony’s, Bahama Mama’s, and OC Wasabi.
The hotel tower, however, will take up a very small amount of the lot’s total surface area, with westward portion of the land being a parking lot with extensive landscaping strips and greenery.
This, generally, is the intent of the additional height-by-right privileges given to overlay areas.
“The idea is that it offers something better than the ‘standard’ five-story version that would create more ground cover,” Smith said, referring to the town’s normal height limit of five stories.
To further his point, Mumford showed the commission a mock-up of what the site would look like if it was not allowed to use the planned overlay exception – a much squatter, boxy building that absorbs almost all of the lot’s surface area.
“As we started to lay out the units, we ended up with only a few oceanfront and most crammed into the back of the lot,” Mumford said. “We thought we would come back with a small footprint of 15 stories.”
Although imposing in height, the top floors of the tower would be tapered. The bottom floors of the tower would each have seven rooms each, with fewer on the upper floors.
“We’re stepping the building back so that it absorbs its own shadow as it gets taller,” Mumford said.
The project is being backed by OC Hotel Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Sunburst Hospitality, according to CEO Pam Williams. The hotel group is owned by the Bainum family.