Ocean City Today

St. Mary’s gets go-ahead for expansion of historic church

By Greg Ellison | Mar 01, 2018
Courtesy of: OCDC The Planning and Zoning Commission approved site plans for a proposed expansion at St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, 208 S. Baltimore Avenue, during its meeting last Wednesday.

(March 2, 2018) Further improvements at St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church on 208 S. Baltimore Avenue are inching forward after the Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday approved a site plan for an addition on the south side of the structure.

Zoning Administrator Frank Hall said plans call for a 900-square-foot addition, a 200-square-foot accessory shed and landscape improvements.

“This is one of those projects where I think a picture speaks a thousand words,” he said. “The addition is going to be a changing room for brides, a vestry, restrooms and a peace or meditation garden.”

Hall said St. Mary’s worked with the Ocean City Development Corporation and Harry How III, MAD Design Group president, to create an architectural rendering that mimicked many features of the historic building, which dates to 1877.

“I think they even saved a window from the older part of the church,” he said.

OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin said his group’s architectural design committee reviewed the site plan in depth.

“We thought it was a well-thought-out site plan that will really compliment the church, which we believe is the oldest building in Ocean City,” he said. “The building will replace what was the old rectory, which was in poor condition.”

Irwin also noted the site plan improves handicap access to the facility.

In 2015, the church launched a multi-year restoration project, which began with razing the old rectory and performing repairs to the bell tower.

Tony Dicken, St. Mary’s Star of the Sea-Holy Savior facilities manager, said final details for site improvements are being finalized.

For example, the potential for a proposed water fountain is still being examined due to maintenance challenges, Dicken said.

“It’s not off the table yet and the garden is still on track,” he said.

In addition to obtaining a building permit, Dicken said the project is also under review by the Wilmington Archdiocese.

“We also need to raise funds and are still shopping for a builder,” he said.

When completed, the addition should be well received, Dicken said, as the historic site holds a special allure for many who chose the location for religious functions.

“People like to do weddings, funerals and baptisms because of the history of that church,” he said. “If you’re around here long enough, somebody’s had something going on there in the past.”

After surviving numerous hurricanes over the last century plus, Dicken said the church has more than earned its moniker and he doesn’t think finding funding will be a challenge.

“Even if people don’t attend the church, just because of the history, the fund raising shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “She truly is a star of the sea.”

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