Ocean City celebrates beginning of $15M. project

By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer
Published: September 11, 2008

The city on Wednesday celebrated expansion plans for the Community Center, the most ambitious public project to be undertaken here since the new high school was built in 2004. The $15 million project will include a new Cape May County senior center, an expanded library and a cafe in the larger atrium, as designed by Garrison Architects of Mt. Laurel..

The Ocean City Free Public Library, the city and the county are paying for the expansion.

More than 100 officials, business leaders and members of the community turned out for the ceremonial ground-breaking.

Mayor Sal Perillo said the project will give Ocean City residents more reason to enjoy the enormous complex at 17th Street. It already boasts the historical museum, the arts center and the Aquatic and Fitness Center.

"What I've enjoyed over the years is talking to people about what makes them excited about Ocean City. ... We have to find as many reasons as we can to get people to live here year-round," he said.

Construction will take about 18 months. The county will move the senior center from 33rd Street to the new building.

"It's a community project that took us where we are today," library board trustee John Flood said.

The expansion is by necessity, officials said. The library sees more than 2,000 visitors on its busiest days and wants to expand its collection and its Internet computers.

Meanwhile, the county wants to update the senior center, which has seen 10 percent more visitors this year for its daily lunches, said Elizabeth Bozzelli, director of the county's Department of Aging.

Bozzelli said residents meet to socialize and enjoy a hot lunch. She said the downturn in the economy has been especially hard on senior citizens.

"They look after each other," she said.

Once a week, county staff members are on hand to answer questions or provide guidance on everything from health care to finances.

The new center comes at an opportune time.

Freeholder Gerald Thornton said Cape May County has the oldest population in New Jersey, topping Ocean County which for years held that distinction.

 

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