By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – Of all the shore towns in South Jersey, perhaps no municipality does more to ensure that visitors and summer residents have a great experience while they are here.
Public improvements are regularly completed during the off season, so residents are not inconvenienced with road construction or public works projects, and there’s always a big push to get them done before the season starts. The city has adopted strict code enforcement laws, such as limiting demolitions and pool building from June to September. Code enforcement patrols city streets to ensure public areas around construction sites are kept neat and clean.
“Neighborhood quality of life is a emphasis in summer, with enforcement of regulations relating to noise, after-hour construction, prohibition on summer demolitions, pool construction and roll-off street storage,” Administrator Richard Deaney said in a statement filed on behalf of Mayor Michael Becker highlighting accomplishments.
Another big priority is to ensure there’s lots of fun stuff to do in summer – starting with Beachstock: The Planet’s Biggest Beach Party this weekend and continuing with a wine tasting in July and the Fall Funfest by the Bay and a Rubber Ducky Derby in September. The city employs the help of the Margate Business Association to organize many of the city’s special events and the city’s Mother’s Association sponsors the Memorial Day Parade and fireworks display on Independence Day.
Year-round residents also have lots to do during the rest of the year too, with holiday activities, charitable giving events, and even a New Year’s Eve orchestra concert at the Dominick A. Potena Performing Arts Center. Droves of families come out to celebrate the holidays with the Downbeach police departments’ annual winter festival held to collect toys for children who need them.
Recreational opportunities are available for senior citizens at the Martin Bloom Pavilion, which offers exercise programs, card playing, Tai Chi, shuffleboard and more. The city was one of the first municipalities to erect pickleball courts behind the Municipal Building and the tennis courts and basketball courts on Jerome Avenue are always bustling with activity. And soon, the Lucy the Elephant-themed playground will be opened to the public. Supply chain issues have unfortunately delayed completion of the project, but a grand celebration is planned. Other amenities in the Sigmund Rimm Athletic Complex are also in the works, such as rebuilding a track and installing game tables. A playground on Vendome Avenue will be refurbished before the end of summer.
Speaking of Lucy the Elephant, the 140-year-old historic roadside attraction is currently undergoing a complete makeover that will ensure she sticks around for another 100 years. Although the work was delayed due to supply chain issues and she’s still under wraps, tours are available daily and a birthday party is planned for July. The city is working with the Save Lucy Committee to obtain the necessary state permits to expand the gift shop – a future project that will delight visitors to the Josephine Harron Park where Lucy keeps a watchful eye on beachgoers.
Summer 2022 will be the first full summer for the Amherst Avenue promenade, a multi-million dollar elevated walkway and bulkhead replacement project along the bay that was completed last year. The sleek modern design includes Ipe wood planks and stainless steel railings so as not to obstruct the view of spectacular sunsets. Although some lament having to pay for parking on Amherst Avenue, the state-of-the-art ParkMobile system promises to ensure a turnover in parking spaces so patrons of all the marina businesses and restaurants will have an opportunity to find a spot.
The Public Works Department works for months in spring to ensure all public spaces are planted with colorful annuals, and in the Parkway section, some of the flowering Kwanzan cherry trees have been replaced and the mermaid fountains received a fresh coat of paint. If you haven’t seen it in early spring, it’s worth a special weekend visit to enjoy the spectacular show of color.
Public safety infrastructure improvements are ongoing, with the final touches being put on Firehouse No. 2, which now accommodates the needs of the department’s female firefighters. Additionally, a new ambulance was recently put into service and went out on its first call the day it was delivered. The Beach Patrol continues to offer dune buggy rides over the dunes to ensure those with special needs can enjoy a day on the beach. The Margate City Police Department recently received recertification for regularly employing best practices that keep people safe.
Preserving the city’s history is evident at Historic City Hall at 1 S. Washington Ave., which houses municipal court, commission chambers and the city’s Historical Society Museum, which is open to visitors. The building recently had its bricks repointed and waterproofed, a process that will be repeated in the coming years to keep the structure looking like it was built yesterday.
The Margate City Public Library is the place to go to pick up brochures about area happenings. The library has expanded its programming to include book deliveries, showings of foreign films, and the park surrounding the library is being refurbished with new entryways and a large tent offers protection from weather during outdoor concerts.
Some of the work that may go unseen by many residents and visitors is the interior remodeling project at the Margate Municipal Building on Winchester avenues. Employees have been relocated to the multipurpose room where cubicles have been set up as temporary offices while the first floor of the former Union Avenue School is remodeled.
Since Hurricane Sandy, the city has made many improvements to stormwater infrastructure, including replacing bulkheads, and installing pump stations and outflow pipes. The city’s ongoing road reconstruction projects also include replacing all underground utilities, and water and sewer lines.
And the recent restriping of Atlantic Avenue to make it one lane in each direction with a center turn lane and wider bicycle lanes, has slowed traffic and made the roadway safer for all users.
Despite restrictions and strict regulations, the city has been able to keep taxes in check through increased ratables. On average, the city adds about $30,000,000 in new ratables each year due to new construction. Smaller bungalows and homes built in the 1950s and 1960s are being replaced with larger homes built at higher elevations.
This is the second in a series of stories about the sizzling summer ahead in Downbeach towns.
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