By Donald Wittkowski
Say goodbye to Getty.
For Ocean City officials eager to see the blighted, former Getty gas station demolished, it’s more like good riddance.
The hulking building that was an eyesore marring the appearance of the city’s main gateway for years was torn down Wednesday as a prelude to transforming the property into a landscaped park.
City Council approved a $650,000 funding package last week to buy the Getty site from its private owner, Trinetra Realty Holdings. Although the deal has not yet closed, Trinetra began demolishing the old Getty building Wednesday as it prepares to clean up the land and turn it over to the city.
City spokesman Doug Bergen said Trinetra will perform soil testing to make sure the property is not contaminated with any chemicals stemming from Getty’s former operation.
“Any deal is contingent on a successful environmental inspection,” Bergen explained of what must happen before the city finalizes the purchase.
The Getty site was the last of three shuttered former gas stations that the city had sought to tear down and convert into green space to make the Ninth Street corridor a more inviting entryway.
“It’s the first thing visitors to Ocean City see. Having green space to welcome our guests instead of abandoned gas stations is very important,” Bergen said.
The other former gas stations, an old Exxon and a former BP, were demolished last year. The BP station was purchased by the city last year for $475,000 and is undergoing redevelopment into a park.
The Getty property next door will be combined with the old BP site to create a swath of green space stretching from the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue to the foot of the Route 52 Causeway bridge.
Keller Williams, a real estate firm, owns the old Exxon property and wants to build a new $2 million office complex there, although the project was turned down by the city Planning Board in January amid concerns about traffic and parking problems. Keller Williams has said it intends to revise the project and bring it back before the Planning Board for approval.
Landscaping improvements at the old BP and Getty sites are tentatively scheduled to be done by Memorial Day weekend, the start of Ocean City’s peak summer tourism season. The project will be modeled after the Mark Soifer Park, which is tucked away in the corner of Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue across the street from City Hall.
Soifer Park, named in honor of the city’s acclaimed former public relations director, is decorated with grass, trees, benches and a brick walkway. A gazebo and an old Ocean City lifeguard boat serve as the centerpieces of the quaint park.
The old BP and Getty sites offer a larger chunk of land than Soifer Park. The landscaped lots would be elevated by 2 to 3 feet to help protect them from flooding. The project will also include new parking for the adjacent Revere Place.
Bergen said a decorative brick retaining wall that is being built in front of the new park is part of broader plans to elevate the Ninth Street corridor to protect it from flooding during coastal storms.
When speaking with the demolition contractor, the question was asked: What did you enjoy smashing the most? His responded with a laugh “The ATM, but unfortunately, it was empty”.