(July 25, 2014) With the deed in hand for a scant three weeks, the Town of Ocean City is already re-working other projects to allow for the anticipated redevelopment of the downtown park area recently acquired from Worcester County.
The city Parks and Recreation Commission reviewed designs last week that would preemptively incorporate elements of the expected redevelopment into the current street reconstruction along St. Louis Avenue.
“Basically, for $13,000 extra, we can have the street the way we want it whether we do the park project this year, next year, or five years from now,” said Councilman and Commission Chair Joe Mitrecic.
That redesign would include narrowing the roadway to eliminate street parking on St. Louis between Third and Fourth Streets, creating more room for landscaping and pedestrians. The strip would also feature a mid-block pedestrian crossing made out of raised pavers, which would connect the main pedestrian paths through the park lands, which occupy the two blocks on either side of the avenue.
Although this design would incur some additional materials costs, they would be nearly offset by the reduction in asphalt needed, city Public Works Director Hal Adkins said, with an estimated net cost increase of only $13,000.
“The baseline option would be to put St. Louis back just the way it was, which is what we’ve done in the previous two phases,” Adkins said.
This winter will be the third and final round of roadway reconstruction on St. Louis, rebuilding from Fourth Street down to the Route 50 Bridge.
Since securing an indefinite deed transfer from Worcester County – the original owner of the land – earlier this month, the city has been ardently dusting off the plans made in 2007 for an improvement of the space, most notably an expansion and renovation of the Ocean Bowl Skate Park.
The whole project would require the city to borrow roughly $3 million via the bond market. Although the town’s Capital Improvement Plan calls for funds to be borrowed in the current fiscal year, the city already went to the bond market at the end of 2014, making it less likely to shoulder two consecutive years of borrowing.
Additionally, the commission also supported the redesign of Third Street from St. Louis west to Chicago Avenue, which will be rebuilt as part of the St. Louis project.
“That street is already falling apart and will be redone this year regardless,” Adkins said.
To make up for the lost parking on St. Louis, the city could expand Third Street 20 feet to the north, eliminating the setback between the sidewalk and the stadium lights for the soccer field. This space could then be used for head-in street parking.
This would be particularly advantageous for the city’s plans to bring in more historic sailing vessels, known as tall ships, to the bayside dock, where parking is limited.
However, the commission seemed to think that plans to incorporate a bathroom facility into the design may alter the parking layout.
“I would advise keeping the improvements to a minimum just so we’re not stuck when we move forward,” said Councilman Dennis Dare.
Adkins suggested reshaping the street, but not putting on the top layer of asphalt until the city finalizes its design. Cost for the re-shaping of Third Street was estimated at $80,000, however, making it more of a stretch to find other savings in the coming round of street paving to cover the cost.
The only public restrooms in the park area are those at the Ocean Bowl, which are barely adequate for skaters, let alone the large numbers the city hopes to attract with future tall ship events. Porta-potties were used for last year’s tall ship visit.
“Whether we do the tall ships or not, [bathrooms] are something that needs to be there,” Mitrecic said.