Hotel to Replace 45th Street Village in Ocean City
Jeremy Cox Delmarva Now
The 45th Street Village has been melting away over the years, leaving just one block of the iconic, sherbet-colored storefronts standing on the south side of the Ocean City property.
Now, that also appears to be dissolving into history.
Avi Sibony, the businessman and developer who owns the bayside property, is seeking regulatory permission to raze what remains of the original kitschy “village” and replace it with a stylish hotel and retail destination.
The town’s planning and zoning commission gave the project a favorable recommendation earlier this month, a crucial boost to the developer’s hopes of winning the Town Council’s final approval.
Sibony’s plans call for building in phases, said Keith Iott, the project’s architect.
The first step: constructing a five-story, 120-room Aloft Hotel near the southwest corner of the property. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin next March, with a hotel opening taking place in March 2018, Iott said.
“It’s pretty slick,” he told the planning commission. “It’s going to be one of the coolest hotels in Ocean City. One of the hallmarks of the Aloft brand is the common areas. They always have music pumped in. It’s clearly marketed to millennials.”
About one-third of the 45th Street Village on the western side will have to make way for the hotel. The building that houses the Assawoman Bay Brewing Company also will have to be torn down, Iott said.
The two other restaurants along the bayside, the 45th Street Taphouse and OC Steamers, are staying put, Iott added. The bayside restaurants sprouted in 2012, their modern designs decreeing a break from the village’s architectural theme.
The developer has no specific timetable for the second phase, he said. What is known is the remaining portion of the original village shops will give way to a 15,500-square-foot retail development, with parking beneath some of it.
The proposal marks the potential final chapter for the 45th Street Village, a landmark that became a landmark almost in spite of itself.
Portions of the development have been wiped away over the years. First came the eight-story Bella Vista condominium on the north side of the property and then the three restaurants on the bay.
In its heyday of the 1980s, the village was a popular nightlife spot, headlined by the Garden restaurant and Samantha’s Night Club.
But the remaining block has devolved into outlet stores and an outpost for Sunsations, the ubiquitous chain of beach-supply stores also owned by Sibony. As early as 2010, one elected leader, then-Town Councilman Jim Hall, said the village was “in very sad need of repair.”
The 7-acre property has cycled through one development proposal after another over the past 13 years.
In 2003, Sibony submitted plans for a 160-unit hotel, two condominiums, several restaurants and additional retail buildings to be built between 44th and 47th Street. Upon its completion, the main building — a 16-story condominium — would stand as the biggest structure on the bayside in Ocean City.
“It was a monster project,” Iott said in an interview. “The timing just wasn’t right.”
Sibony scaled back, at one point putting forward plans for a 9,600-square-foot high-end surf shop. That didn’t happen either.
In the meantime, the village began a new life as a de facto fairgrounds. With parking and open space at a premium in the coastal resort, the development became a gathering place for events such as the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, Delmarva Bike Week and the H2O International car show.
The latest plans received a warm reception before the Planning Commission.
“I think the size, I think the whole thing will fit right in there better than what we’ve seen with previous plans,” Planning Commission Chair Pam Buckley said. Ocean City has flown many hotel banners but never one belonging to Aloft. The brand was started by Starwood Hotels in 2005, mainly sprouting in urban centers.
The Ocean City location will include a 4,000-square-foot banquet space overlooking the bay, Iott said. He predicted it will quickly become a hot spot for weddings because of its sunset views and grassy, 25-foot-wide esplanade. Also planned: a bayside pool with a retractable roof.