Ocean City Welcome Sign Planned For Fire Site

OCEAN CITY – The beleaguered piece of property at the foot of the Route 50 bridge in Ocean City, scene of a sensational explosion and fire last winter, could become home to the latest sign welcoming visitors to the resort.

Town public works employees last week cleared the last vestiges of the former home of Richard and Marion Manning at 111 Caroline Street after the house devastated by a fire last April stood on the site for months. The lot has been cleared, graded and reseeded and will likely remain empty throughout the winter, but there is a plan in the works to erect a monument-style “Welcome to Ocean City” sign on the property at the gateway to the resort.

Last April 3, a driver crossing the Route 50 Bridge failed to negotiate the turn at the bottom of the span and crashed into the Manning residence on Caroline Street at Philadelphia Ave. The vehicle ruptured a gas line at the home, causing an explosion that engulfed the residence in flames. The Mannings were home at the time of the collision but were not injured. However, their home and its belongings were completely destroyed.

The Ocean City Mayor and Council agreed this summer to purchase the property from the Mannings for $235,000, although its future plans for the site were, and still are to a large degree, unknown. However, a plan is in the works to erect a welcoming sign on the site as early as this spring while city officials decide the long-term fate of the property.

The Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) has piggybacked a request for a $25,000 state grant for the sign with its larger request for state funding under the Community Legacy program. The OCDC is preparing a grant request for $225,000 from Community Legacy for four identified projects in the downtown area and the request for funding for the sign could be included in the package.

OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin said last week the sign project would likely be included in the resort’s larger grant request, but was uncertain whether the funding would be available.

“The Mayor and Council have approved the application and now we just have to submit it and wait and see,” he said. “These Community Legacy grant requests are very competitive, but we think we’ve put together a nice package.”

Irwin said the sign, if approved, could make a nice addition to the entrance to the town.

“It would tie in nicely with the public park we already have at the foot of the bridge,” he said. “I’m not sure what the plans are for the long-term use, but this would be a good use of the property in the short-term. It could be up as early as next spring.”

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