Home Latest Stories Ocean City Unveils Possible “New Bayside Center”

Ocean City Unveils Possible “New Bayside Center”

A new version of the Bayside Center in Ocean City could be in the future.


The unveiling of an architectural rendering of the “new” Bayside Center suggests that the existing 108-year-old landmark may, at some point, be history.

Ocean City officials insist it is premature to talk about the Bayside Center’s future.

But first, it would have to be something agreed to by both the city and Cape May County officials since the county is the building’s owner and the city leases the space.

A rendering for “The New Bayside Center,” as it is called in the plans, shows a completely different design than the current structure. The exterior of the new version would be dominated by a vast, porch-like exterior supported by columns.

It would also boast what appears in the rendering to be a generously sized multi-functional space for events and activities, office and storage space and ample parking. It would also include a boat launch facility.

The Bayside Center at 520 Bay Ave. has been a part of the city’s fabric since 1916. The three-story former mansion has been home to many community activities and events that have drawn people from all over.

There was even a room dedicated to a museum. But over time, the structure has deteriorated. It has been closed to the public for at least two years.

The plan for the Bayside Center was part of a presentation by Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato on Ocean City’s five-year capital plan during the March 28 City Council meeting.

Renovations to the Bayside Center site would be “coordinated with the county,” the plan reads.

Ocean City Public Information Officer Doug Bergen said that the plan is only a potential one and that it would need county approval.

“The capital plan is primarily a financial planning document, and the city would like to prepare for funding if a Bayside Center project ever were to take place,” Bergen said. “But at this point, it’s premature to talk about plans or timelines, because there is none. The property is owned by the county, and the city is still working with them to see what would be feasible.”

This is a rendering of a potential new building at the site. (Rendering courtesy of Ocean City)

Over the years, the city has made improvements to the site, which is also used for its outdoor green space. Upgrades to the windows, doors and air-conditioning system were completed a few years ago.

But the cost for a more extensive renovation, city officials say, would be too great. It would include a new and much-needed fire suppression system.

“The building now is really useless for our purposes,” Donato said during his presentation on the capital plan.

He pointed out that it would cost “a ton of money” even to upgrade the fire-suppression system.

In March of 2023, Mayor Jay Gillian remarked about the future of the Bayside Center and some of the ideas the city thought might be best for the site.

“The Bayside Center is just falling apart,” Gillian said then of the building’s deteriorating condition.

He noted that a new fire-suppression system would cost anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000.

“It is too much bite for the taxpayers,” Gillian said.

Part of the Bayside Center served as a museum for the Ocean City Beach Patrol.

The center originally was a mansion built on the 1.35-acre property around 1916 by the Diesel family. In 1958, the Wheaton family purchased the house for use as a summer vacation retreat.

The Wheaton family owned the property until it was purchased by Cape May County in 1995 through the New Jersey Open Space and Farmland Preservation Program.

It was converted into the Bayside Center. Ocean City has operated it for years since as a combination museum, community center and nature center through a long-term lease with Cape May County.

Panoramic views of the water unfold from the outdoor decks of the Bayside Center.