By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
It might be a stretch to consider them attractions in their own right, but two new public bathrooms coming to the Ocean City Boardwalk this summer will no doubt be popular places to, ahem, go.
During a brief presentation to the planning board on Wednesday night, city representatives unveiled designs for restrooms that will be built at 10th Street and 11th Street in a busy part of the Boardwalk’s retail and amusements area.
The new bathrooms will replace two temporary restrooms that were at the same locations during previous summers. City officials emphasized that the new permanent bathrooms represent a great improvement over the ones they will replace.
William C. McLees, a Somers Point architect who designed the restrooms, noted that Ocean City wants to make a favorable impression on the visitors and vacationers who come to the resort community.
“This is another piece of that puzzle,” he said in an interview after making a presentation to the planning board members during their meeting.
McLees explained that the new bathrooms will not be run-of-the-mill public restrooms. He said the city began setting a new standard when it built a large, more elaborate public bathroom on the Boardwalk at Sixth Street in 2018.
“The goal is to have consistency and aesthetics on the Boardwalk,” he said.
The restroom at 10th Street will have 10 unisex units, while the bathroom at 11th Street will include eight unisex units.
City Business Administrator George Savastano said construction is scheduled to begin March 7. The restrooms are expected to be completed by Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the summer tourism season.
At one time, the city was tentatively shooting to have the bathrooms completed by April, so that they would be ready for Easter weekend April 15-17.
The completion date previously had been uncertain because of setbacks with the project, including the city’s decision to reject an earlier set of construction bids for the bathrooms because they were too high. Now, the construction will be done in-house by city work crews instead of hiring an outside contractor.
During a City Council meeting last week, Councilman Jody Levchuk asked whether building the restrooms in May would cause any disruptions for Boardwalk merchants as they accept deliveries for their stores and prepare for the summer season.
“I have a concern,” Levchuk said, noting that about 25 merchants are located near the proposed bathrooms and might have their operations interrupted by construction work.
Levchuk is co-owner of his family’s Jilly’s stores and amusement arcade on the Boardwalk.
Savastano, though, assured Levchuk and the other Council members that the bathroom project will be done without causing any “stress or disorganization.”
“It’s going to be a good project, and it’s going to be done before the summer season,” Savastano said then.
The planning board meeting Wednesday represented an opportunity for the public to get a sneak peek of the two restrooms.
City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said the city’s presentation was a “courtesy review” for the planning board. No vote was required by the board to approve the project, she added.
Patricia Estadt, an Ocean City resident who was sitting in the audience, didn’t have any questions about the bathrooms planned at 10th Street and 11th Street, but urged the city to build public restrooms on the Boardwalk at 15th Street.
John Loeper, planning board chairman, agreed with Estadt that the city needs more public restrooms on the Boardwalk.
“I take that to heart. I personally feel there should be more facilities with the number of people on the Boardwalk,” Loeper said.
Loeper told Estadt that it would be up to City Council – not the planning board – to decide whether to approve funding for more bathrooms.
“I don’t hold the purse strings,” he said.