New Downtown Entrance Sign OK’d

OCEAN CITY – The City Council approved conceptual design plans this week for a new sign welcoming visitors to Ocean City on a beleaguered piece of property at the foot of the Route 50 bridge.

The last vestiges of the former home of Richard and Marion Manning at 111 Caroline Street have long been cleared and the relatively small parcel is currently covered with grass and bordered on the south side of the property. In some ways, it has become a de facto extension of the city-owned park at North Division Street, but plans are in the works to enhance the site with an attractive, “Welcome to Downtown Ocean City” sign and extensive lighting and landscaping.

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

Last summer, the Ocean City Mayor and Council agreed to purchase the lot from the Mannings for $235,000, although the long-term future of the property is still unknown. In the meantime, the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) pursued a state grant for $25,000 under the Community Legacy program to erect the welcoming sign and attractive park on the vacant parcel. OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin told the Mayor and Council this week the $25,000 Community Legacy grant had come through and presented conceptual plans for the sign and the associated landscaping and lighting.

Irwin said the blue sign with white letters would be 11 feet long and five feet wide and would be positioned to face traffic entering the resort from the Route 50 Bridge. He explained the sign would be positioned that way to appeal to traffic on the bridge instead of facing north on Philadelphia Avenue because those motorists are already in the downtown area.

The plan includes lighting and landscaping around the sign itself, as well as a significant amount of landscaping around the perimeter of the lot. It was questioned whether the enhanced lighting would shine on neighboring properties, but Irwin assured all of the ambient line would be directed onto the property itself.

Councilman Jim Hall asked if the attractive white fence that currently runs along the south side of the lot could be extended around the back of the property. Irwin said he would look into it, but wasn’t sure how it would fit into the grant budget.