The Ocean City Music Pier will light up with an array of entertainment. By DONALD WITTKOWSKIOcean City’s landmark Music Pier will undergo a facelift to transform its open-air loggia into an enclosed space containing a lobby, reception area, multipurpose rooms and new restrooms. The proposed renovations would preserve the historic and iconic building while adding some of the amenities of a modern performing arts center and meeting place, city spokesman Doug Bergen said. “The Ocean City Music Pier is home to hundreds of shows and events each year, catering to people of all ages and interests. As it stands now, a ticketholder can’t even go to the bathroom without leaving the gate,” Bergen said in an email Wednesday. The Music Pier is the city’s epicenter for entertainment and cultural events. However, people must leave the confines of the performance hall to enter the bathrooms located on the loggia, a large, balcony-like structure attached to the building on the south side.Bathrooms are also located on the north side of the building. They are accessible by using an outdoor walkway. The walkway will also be enclosed as part of the building’s renovations.The new bathrooms and other proposed improvements to the loggia are critical for providing “full service functions to the building,” said Henry Hengchua, a Toms River, N.J., architect who has been hired by the city to design the project. “These additional amenities and support spaces will serve to transform the stature of the current facility to a fully functional performing arts center,” Hengchua wrote in a June 20 memo to city officials describing the upgrades. The open-air loggia on the south side of the Music Pier will be enclosed to create new restrooms, a lobby, reception area and multipurpose rooms.The Music Pier’s main hall seats between 900 and 1,000 people for most shows. The loggia complements the concerts and other shows held inside the building. The loggia has a roof but is open on the sides. In warmer weather, it is home to special events such as the city’s Wacky Wednesday family events, the annual Green Fair and the Chili and Chowder Festival. Hengchua will design ways to enclose the loggia and convert the space into restrooms, a lobby, reception area and multipurpose rooms. The project will also include enclosing the walkway on the northern side of the Music Pier, according to city documents. “The design would dictate feasibility and potential cost,” Bergen said of the project. “The earliest construction could begin would be fall 2020.” Dating to 1929, the Music Pier is one of Ocean City’s most iconic buildings. Clad in stucco, it features an eye-catching, Spanish-style design accented by soaring arched windows that peer out over the beach, ocean and Boardwalk. Although the cornerstone plaque is stamped with the date 1928, the Music Pier actually opened in 1929, the same year as the stock market crash that plunged the nation into the Great Depression. Mayor Jay Gillian, who has made the Music Pier’s upgrades a priority, has repeatedly said that the building is such an important landmark for Ocean City that it must be protected and enhanced with a series of capital improvements. The Music Pier is perched on the beach, offering sweeping oceanfront views.The building’s oceanside location at Moorlyn Terrace and the Boardwalk constantly exposes it to storms and the corrosive salt air. Most of the upgrades are designed to maintain the historic structure. In addition to the renovations to the loggia, the city is planning to spend $2.1 million for a series of improvements to the building. They include a new roof and heating and air-conditioning systems. Upgrades to the Music Pier’s sound system and stage lighting will also create a more inviting experience for the tens of thousands of people who visit the building every year, Bergen noted. The sound improvements follow $150,000 invested in the building two years ago for large video screens that give spectators a better view of performances. This was done with donations by the Friends of the Ocean City Pops, the fund-raising arm of the local orchestra that calls the Music Pier its home. The orchestra’s performances are part of an array of entertainment and special events hosted by the Music Pier. Throughout the year, there are concerts, musicals, beauty pageants, food festivals, antiques fairs and other shows.