By Donald Wittkowski
The stately building at Moorlyn Terrace and the Boardwalk has become Ocean City’s cultural and entertainment center over the years with its array of concerts, beauty pageants and festivals.
Now, the Music Pier, built in 1928, a year before the country was plunged into the Great Depression, is about to get some TLC to help keep the historic landmark in tip-top shape.
City Council, meeting for the last time in 2018 on Thursday, approved an engineering contact for the design of a new roof at the Music Pier.
City Business Administrator George Savastano estimated that it has been around 20 years since the concert hall last had a new roof. Over the past two decades, there has been wear and tear to the oceanfront building stemming from its exposure to the elements.
“The Music Pier needs a new roof. It’s as straightforward as that,” Savastano said.
The cost of the project is not yet known. Savastano noted that the city will solicit bids from contractors later on for the new roof. The work is expected to be done in 2019.
A new roof is part of a series of maintenance projects and upgrades slated for the Music Pier in the city’s five-year capital plan adopted last January.
The capital plan proposes to spend $500,000 each year, from 2019 through 2022, for structural improvements totaling $2 million.
“Just like the Boardwalk, the Music Pier is part of what defines Ocean City. It’s important to maintain these public resources,” Doug Bergen, the city’s public information officer, said in an interview earlier this year.
The Music Pier serves as the heart of the city’s entertainment scene. It hosts many special events each year, from beauty pageants, to concerts to food festivals to antiques fairs. The legendary R&B group the Spinners will perform at the Music Pier as the headline act for the city’s First Night New Year’s Eve celebration.
An earlier report on the condition of the building pointed to the need for repairs to the roof, floor and substructure.
In addition to the structural repairs, the capital plan calls for the city to spend $100,000 for improvements to the building’s sound system in 2019 and again in 2020. In 2021, the city has proposed spending an additional $125,000 on the sound system. The stage lighting is expected to get a $200,000 upgrade in 2019.
Other proposed spending in the capital plan includes $75,000 to improve the public restrooms at the Music Pier in 2019, as well as $50,000 for window tinting.
The improvements will follow $150,000 invested in the building last year for large video screens that give spectators a better view of performances. This was done with donations by the Friends of the Ocean City Pops, the fund-raising arm of the local orchestra.
In other business Thursday, City Council approved a contract for the second phase of a streetscape project that will spruce up parts of the downtown shopping district with new brick walkways, sidewalks and decorative pavers. The cost is $340,450.
New brick walkways will be installed on Sixth, Seventh and 11th streets at the intersection of Asbury Avenue, downtown’s main thoroughfare, Savastano said. The brick walkways will match the ones that have already been installed on other streets downtown.
The project will give the downtown area not only a more uniform look, but will also enhance its appearance, Savastano said. The work is expected to be done over the winter and spring.
In another vote Thursday, Council approved a $45,000 contract with Ocean City attorney Douglas K. Walker to serve as the new municipal prosecutor in 2019. Walker is taking over following Mayor Jay Gillian’s decision not to reappoint Don Charles, who served as municipal prosecutor for 15 years, based on the recommendation of City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson.
Walker, 62, has been practicing law for 31 years. He comes from a family of lawyers, including his wife, Lynne Hughes, the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador and Congressman Bill Hughes of Ocean City.
Walker, who has been Ocean City’s public defender for the past 12 years, said he is looking forward to working with the police department in his new role as the municipal prosecutor and upholding the stellar reputation of the local court system.
“Ocean City’s court is, quite honestly, seen as a hallmark of municipal courts in this area,” he said in an interview. “I can only hope to continue with the efficiency and effectiveness of the courts.”