Talks Continue To Open Up Walking Space In Ocean City Downtown

Josh Bakan

OCEAN CITY, NJ — Ocean City officials continue examining ideas that could benefit local businesses amid coronavirus restrictions. Councilman Keith Hartzell researched options to potentially expand space for walking, dining and shopping in Ocean City's downtown.

As New Jersey reduces its coronavirus restrictions, several towns have eased processes to expand outdoor dining and some have converted streets into temporary pedestrian walkways. Hartzell continues to discuss possibilities with officials and businesses, he said at Thursday's City Council meeting.

"What was suggested originally was a pedestrian walkway of up to three days," he said. "Then it came down to one day. A lot of towns were giving me their research."

Hartzell researched 10 New Jersey towns in similar situations. He found similarities between Collingswood, Haddonfield and Ocean City.

Officials in Collingswood and Haddonfield are looking into letting businesses close off the parking spaces in front of their building, while still allowing traffic to go through.

Ocean City faces a unique issue though. While many cities are centered around a downtown area, Ocean City's attractions also include its beaches and boardwalk.

Expanding outdoor dining would be the main benefit of expanding pedestrian space, Hartzell says. So the city's plan for closures should consider how many restaurants the downtown has.

"It’s basically based on how many restaurants you have, which are now called 'streateries,'" Hartzell said. "So I found the most restaurants you had, the more likely you would be to have some kind of closure. As everyone knows, we have a retail downtown and not necessarily a lot of restaurants."

Hartzell first introduced the idea of a pedestrian walkway to the public at May 28's City Council meeting. He said discussions on the idea remained in the preliminary stages.

While some city council members weren't sure how they felt about it, they said now was the time to think creatively about how to help businesses.

Governor Phil Murphy will lift his ban on outdoor dining Monday, while also allowing limited in-person retail shopping. Read more: Gov. Murphy: 'Hard Dates' In NJ Coronavirus Reopening Blueprint

Officials have reported 10 active coronavirus cases, 32 people cleared off quarantine and two deaths in Ocean City as of Sunday morning. Three active cases relate to longterm-care facilities, according to the Cape May County Health Department.

Watch Thursday's full City Council meeting below:

Read more: NJ Coronavirus, Reopen Updates: Here's What You Need To Know

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This article originally appeared on the Ocean City Patch