(Feb. 6, 2015) Downtown Ocean City’s landscape will continue in a state of flux this spring, as construction on the new Beach Patrol headquarters continues while demolition is soon to start just a block away.
The city is slated to issue a request for bids next week for the demolition of several buildings along the north side of Somerset Street, inside the Ocean City Development Corporation’s “model block” area.
This will include the former Hall’s Pioneer Hotel building on the northwest corner of Somerset Street and Baltimore Avenue, as well as the residential structures stretching west along the north side of Somerset. The city bought the properties from the Hall family last year.
Meanwhile, construction of the new Ocean City Beach Patrol headquarters on the southeast corner of Philadelphia Avenue and Talbot Street continues to be on target for a Memorial Day completion date, according to City Engineer Terry McGean.
Once complete, the new building will allow the OCBP to clear out its dilapidated headquarters inside the model block, allowing the property to be fully cleared for a future OCDC-sponsored redevelopment initiative.
In the mean time, the open lots will be used as temporary parking.
“The first phase will be tearing down all the stuff along Somerset,” McGean said. “We’re trying to have all that taken down this spring, so the Beach Patrol can have extra parking there this summer. Then, after the summer is over, we would tear down the old beach patrol building and the apartments.”
Those apartments are used seasonally as housing for lifeguards and summer police officers.
OCBP staff will move into the new headquarters building over the course of the summer, with guards’ equipment being issued out of the current building but placed in the new facility when returned.
“The plan is that all the equipment that each guard gets will be distributed out of the old building, and re-stored in the new one by the end of the summer,” McGean said.
Once the OCBP has vacated the premises, the land – per the city’s agreement with OCDC – will be turned over to the nonprofit development group. In exchange, OCDC provided the city with the land on which the new OCBP building is currently under way.
Although McGean is handling the demolition on OCDC’s behalf, most of the funding for the work will come out of a $200,000 state grant that OCDC received in December. Additional funds will come out of revenues from the city’s inlet parking Lot, a certain portion of which is granted to OCDC.
The goal of the model block acquisition is for OCDC to design a new, mixed-use project that will spur further downtown redevelopment. The land, and the rights to the project, will then be sold off to a private developer who will be required to follow OCDC’s design.
With the exception of two buildings on the northeast corner, OCDC will own the entire block between Baltimore and Philadelphia Avenues to the east and west, and Dorchester and Somerset Streets to the north and south.
“At this point, we’re satisfied with what we have,” said OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin. “The end developer may try to get the two adjacent properties that we don’t’ have, but that’s up to them. Land acquisition from our side is over.”
The project site is currently around 35,000 square feet, or four-fifths of an acre. The city purchased the Hall property last year with a down payment of $216,000 and another $600,000 over 10 years at two percent interest, to be taken out of the inlet lot allocation. Once the model block is sold, the proceeds will go back to the city.
The OCBP’s current facility was formerly the city’s police headquarters and court building, before the construction of the 65th Street Public Safety Building in 1991.