$13 million expansion adds hustle, bustle to Ocean City Community Center

By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer |
Posted: Saturday, June 25, 2011 1:03 am

OCEAN CITY - Improvements to the city's Community Center are living up to expectations after three years of construction and $13 million. The expansion, all but finished, is second only to the $40 million high school as being the most ambitious and expensive public building on the island. Both designs were by Garrison Architects of Marlton.

The complex at 17th Street and Simpson Avenue is home to a public library, senior center, pool, gym, arts center and historical museum.

A roof replacement over the pool in August is all that remains to be done as part of the $13 million expansion of the Ocean City Community Center.

The expansion, which was largely completed in October, included a new public atrium complete with a cafe.

On Friday, people browsed the collections of the historical museum, senior citizens played games of bingo, children took art classes and the library held a book sale. Women carrying yoga mats passed neighbors carrying DVDs and books from the library.

"It's a great atmosphere - bright and airy," City Councilman John Flood said. "It's a place where citizens of all ages can go and congregate."

Cape May County spent $3.5 million to build a new senior center on the south wing to replace the old center on Bay Avenue.

"The center has achieved everything the county wanted," county Administrator Steve O'Connor said. "The county was very pleased with how it turned out."

The Ocean City Community Center features a library, senior center, pool, gym, arts center and historical museum.

City Council on Thursday approved the final change order for the project to acknowledge that it came in $638 under its $13.1 million budget. In August, the city's pool will close for three months while its old roof - the last piece of the project - is replaced.

The public has embraced all facets of the building, city officials said.

Despite a good beach day Friday, the Community Center was abuzz with activity. Rain can draw even more people. On a drizzly day last week, the library counted 2,500 patrons. Another 1,622 members of the Aquatic and Fitness Center came in that same day.

"In the summer, the walls bulge," front-desk clerk Helen Mullen said.

The Ocean City Arts Center on the second floor hosts a summer arts camp for children, monthly gallery shows and classes ranging from ballroom dancing to filmmaking.

Community center officials said 1,622 people used the center's gym on a given day in the middle of June. 'In the summer, the walls bulge,' front-desk clerk Helen Mullen says of activity at the center.

"Our membership is up 50 percent this year," arts center Director Rosalyn Lifshin said. "We're trying to expand what we offer. We'll have 30 arts camps for kids this year."

The library expansion included a new 75-seat lecture hall that doubles on Saturdays as a screening room for free movies.

"Attendance has doubled for most of our programming," library Director Christopher Maloney said. "We're offering more programs as a result."

The library board paid for most of the expansion, more than $9 million.

"It's a very social place. When they come in, they want to stay longer. It's very inviting," he said.


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