The Ocean City Development Corp. is revitalizing the roots of the resort
Ocean City is not a place easily taken for granted. It is a high-profile location in a worldwide arena, richly cherished by generations of people who grew up in and around it as well as by millions of people from around the globe who continue to come here in droves either to visit, buy second homes or retire. Ocean City is so popular, in fact, that on any given day during peak season, it swells from its embedded population of 8,000 to about 350,000, making it, after Baltimore, the most populated city in the state of Maryland. That’s why there are so many eyes on the Ocean City Development Corporation and why those eyes are smiling from ear to ear.
“My dad never had a lot of patience for idle complaining,” said OCDC president Greg Shockley of his father, attorney Raymond Shockley. “If I ever did that growing up, he’d simply say, ‘Don’t just complain about it, Greg; do something about it,’ which is really why I decided to get involved with the OCDC; obviously, I’m really glad I did.
It’s so obvious because of the stunning impact that Shockley, his predecessors, and their boards have had on Downtown Ocean City. The result is that the area from 3rd Street to the Inlet — better known as “Downtown” — has never looked so good.
The genesis of the OCDC was essentially in the late-1990s, when the International Waterfront Group made its final recommendations to the Ocean City town council, which included the creation of a “Community Development Corporation,” or CDC, charged with overseeing the revitalization of the Downtown area through the establishment of design standards and the provision of economic incentives to encourage compliance with those standards. That CDC would become known in 2000 as the OCDC.
The mission of the not-for-profit corporation is to create and foster a safe and attractive environment in which innovative public- and private-sector partnerships collaborate to maximize available resources and opportunities, and eliminate barriers to the revitalization of the Downtown area.
One of the company’s first decisions also proved to be one of their best. They brought up redeveloper and land-planner Glenn Irwin from South Florida to become the OCDC’s executive director, a decision that Shockley says has paid inestimable dividends to this day.
“There’s no accomplishment that’s been made nor any accolade received that would have been possible without Glenn’s contribution to this project,” praised Shockley, who moonlights as the owner-operator of the iconic Ocean City Irish pub Shenanigan’s. “We found him following a nationwide recruitment search — which had an unbelievable number of candidates — and, man, did we pick the right guy.”
Irwin, et al. immediately began working with the OCDC’s Downtown Design Committee to create and implement the design standards that would become the signature of Downtown Ocean City. The basic goal was to apply quality standards of design that reflected the architectural elements and character of Old Ocean City, in order to enhance visual quality, increase property values and prevent poor design quality. Between the building renovations and commercial façade-improvement projects, the successes were many, including Somerset Plaza, Sunset Park, Breakers Hotel/Dough Roller Restaurant, Belmont Towers and Seabright Condominiums. But that was just the beginning.
“After all we’d done in the area south of Third Street,” Irwin said, “people from farther north began coming to us for advice or to do for their area what we’d done Downtown. The requests were very gratifying and a sure sign that the project was really working as we’d hoped and planned.”
And so in 2008 it began again — this time for the area that runs north from 3rd Street to 17th Street, currently referred to as “Upper-Downtown.” Though the renovations and façade enhancements would continue as they had to the south, these would be somewhat different in character because of the residential nature of the Upper-Downtown area versus the commercial/mixed-use buildings that are prevalent Downtown. Well, 62 exterior building upgrades and over $3 million later, the OCDC has quite literally changed the face of south Ocean City.
But the OCDC’s aesthetic improvements weren’t limited to buildings, as the organization was the catalyst for multiple examples of defining public art, including the white marlin statue at the Route 50 Bridge entrance to Ocean City, the soaring eagle statue at 144th Street and the utility-box painting project.
While the OCDC’s influence has been both indelible and far-reaching, their pending ambitions suggest they have many miles to go before they sleep.
“In addition to continuing the façade enhancements,” Shockley said, “we’d like to create more mixed-use buildings Downtown as well as an ample number of new parking spaces, since we really don’t want anyone deciding to leave the area because they couldn’t find a place to park.”
“We’re also planning a brand-new bayside boardwalk,” Irwin added, “which would run down to the inlet and essentially parallel the oceanside boardwalk. We may even link the two periodically with some east-west connections.”
Even though it’s thought of as a place frequently drenched in sunshine, the future of Ocean City, thanks to the OCDC, seems even brighter.
OCEAN CITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
108 Dorchester Street, Ocean City, MD 21842
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