By Donald WittkowskiAn infamous eyesore that marred the appearance of Ocean City’s main gateway for years was demolished Wednesday as plans move ahead to redevelop the site into a multimillion-dollar real estate office.An excavator used its giant claw to tear down the abandoned former Exxon gas station that had loomed over the Ninth Street corridor. By 10:30 a.m., the last bits of the blighted building were reduced to a pile of twisted metal and broken concrete.Demolition crews will clear away the rubble to create a clean patch of land ready for redevelopment into a new $2 million headquarters for the Keller Williams realty company.Paul Chiolo, owner of Keller Williams, said the project reflects his company’s commitment to invest in Ocean City and will serve as a new centerpiece for the Ninth Street artery.“This corridor is so important for the growth of the town,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “I think for us to plant our flag in the center of town is a real testament of what the entrepreneurial spirit can do.”Chiolo plans to seek formal Planning Board approval for the project in January, setting the stage for construction to begin by spring. The new office would be completed later in 2017 under that timetable.A former Getty is the last remaining abandoned gas station still standing along the Ninth Street corridor.The office will accommodate a growing local work force for Keller Williams, which Chiolo said is the nation’s largest real estate company and No. 2 in sales in the Ocean City marketplace.A former Getty is the last remaining abandoned gas station still standing along the Ninth Street corridor.“I think there’s some elation now with how much growth is going on here,” Chiolo said.Keller Williams bought the Exxon site for $500,000. For months, the company had teased its project by draping a sign on the front of the old Exxon building that included an architectural rendering of the proposed office.The redevelopment of the old Exxon site is a key piece of the city’s overall plan to beautify the Ninth Street corridor from the bay to the Boardwalk, creating a far more appealing first impression of Ocean City for visitors arriving via the Route 52 Causeway bridge.The strategy for Ninth Street’s grand makeover largely depends on the redevelopment of some old commercial properties, including three long-shuttered Exxon, BP and Getty gas stations.The old Exxon, literally one of the first things visitors would see as they entered Ninth Street from the Route 52 Causeway bridge, had been one of the city’s top concerns. However, the Keller Williams project removes the Exxon blight, relieving the city of that headache.Over the summer, the city agreed to pay $475,000 to buy an abandoned former BP gas station on the opposite side of Ninth Street. The old BP has since been demolished.City officials have been in talks about acquiring an empty Getty station next door to the BP site. Bud’s Outboard Marine Inc., another property at the foot of the Ninth Street entryway, also is being eyed by the city.Taken together, the BP, Getty and Bud’s Outboard Marine sites would create a large swath of property under the city’s control.An architectural rendering depicts the proposed Keller Williams office building at the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue.At a town hall meeting in October, Mayor Jay Gillian unveiled plans to replace the blight with an expanse of landscaped open space stretching from the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue to the foot of the Route 52 Causeway bridge.The town hall meeting also gathered suggestions from the public on how to spruce up the Ninth Street corridor. Ideas from the public included open space, new parks, children’s playgrounds, boat slips and a series of environmentally friendly attractions ranging from bird-watching areas to rain gardens.Over the summer, City Council approved an ordinance that gave the town the option to either buy or condemn the Exxon, BP, Getty and Bud’s Outboard Marine sites. Since then, Keller Williams finalized its purchase of the Exxon property.City officials said the ordinance simply gives the town more protection from liability claims if it acquires the sites and contamination is discovered later on.The onus for cleaning up the contamination would fall on the previous owners, not the city, Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said.The Exxon site is already known to be contaminated with petroleum-related chemicals in the groundwater. The contamination, which is suspected to stem from the gas station’s former operation, has been monitored for the last 27 years.Synergy Environmental Inc., a consulting firm overseeing the Exxon site, told surrounding property owners in a letter in July that the contamination poses no public danger and should dissipate by itself.Chiolo said earlier this year he was given a 500-page report from Synergy that concluded the Exxon site would be safe enough for Keller Williams to build its proposed two-story office complex there. The blighted former Exxon gas station at the corner of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue is demolished to make room for a proposed $2 million corporate headquarters for the Keller Williams realty company.
"Blighted Former Gas Station in Ocean City is Demolished"