By Donald Wittkowski
Getty appears to be a goner.
Ocean City has reached a tentative deal to buy an abandoned former Getty gas station as it moves ahead with plans to demolish blighted sites along the main gateway into town and transform them into inviting green space.
City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday night on spending $650,000 to acquire the Getty property at the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue. The Getty site is the last of three shuttered former gas stations that had marred the appearance of the Ninth Street corridor for years.
The other two, an old Exxon station and an abandoned BP station, were torn down last year. The Getty station will also be demolished once it comes under the city’s control.
The BP station was purchased by the city last year for $475,000 and is awaiting redevelopment into a landscaped park. The Getty property next door will be combined with the old BP site to create a swath of green space.
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 is expected to revise the project and bring it back before the Planning Board for approval.
The redevelopment of the old gas stations is a key part of the city’s strategy to beautify the Ninth Street corridor from the bay to the Boardwalk, creating a more appealing entryway for visitors arriving in town via the Route 52 Causeway.
“Hopefully, in the course of the next several months or year we’ll see a marked difference in the primary gateway into Ocean City,” said Frank Donato, the city’s chief financial officer.
The city had been talking with the owner of the Getty site, Trinetra Realty Holdings, for more than a year, but was unable to reach a tentative deal until now. Donato said the purchase has not yet been finalized, but noted that the city is looking to take ownership of the site by the summer.
“It’s definitely moving in the right direction,” he said.
In February, Council approved a $347,658 construction contract for a series of city landscaping projects, including turning the old BP site into a park. As part of that contract, there was an alternate bid of $90,918 for the Getty property that would allow the city to begin landscaping improvements there if it is successful in acquiring the site, Donato said.
Mayor Jay Gillian has a proposed $112.2 million, five-year capital plan that includes $2 million in funding in 2017 for land acquisition in the Ninth Street corridor and other parts of the city.
Initially, the city would concentrate on sprucing up an expanse of land stretching from the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue to the base of the Route 52 Causeway bridge. The old gas station sites are right in the middle of that area.
Donato said the landscaping improvements on Ninth Street would 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 would 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 would also include new parking for the adjacent Revere Place.