OCEAN CITY — Keller Williams Realty Jersey Shore and the city can each claim wins — and losses — in the struggle over what the intersection of Ninth Street and Bay Avenue should look like.

The city will build a park this summer at the northwest corner, but the additional green space it wanted on the southeast corner will not happen.

Keller Williams gained the opportunity to build its $2 million flagship office at the high-profile location in the gateway to the city, but it lost two years on the project.

“We wanted it (the former rundown Exxon gas station site) from the moment we had an ability to purchase it,” said Paul F. Chiolo, broker/operating principal with Keller Williams. “It’s the first property you see when you come into town, and the design that we have, we believe, will be an incredible entranceway into the city.”

The municipal government had already taken one shuttered gas station, BP, and turned the location into a patch of green grass.

On April 11, the city acquired its next-door neighbor, site of a former Getty gas station. By the summer, that will be landscaped and added to the former BP location to make a bigger park.

“The city is always looking for cost-effective ways to acquire open space, which is a rare commodity in Ocean City. No money will be spent unless the right opportunity arises,” said Doug Bergen, the city’s public information officer.

In August 2016, Keller Williams Realty Jersey Shore purchased the former Exxon station at 903 Bay Ave., the southeast corner of Ninth Street and Bay, Chiolo said. Keller Williams bought the property even though Chiolo had heard the city wanted to buy the same lot.

The first obstacle Keller Williams met was the city’s Planning Board, which rejected the company’s first submission in January 2017 over traffic concerns. The board approved the proposal in the fall.

When Chiolo cleared that hurdle, he ran into another.

In November, Ocean City Council approved an ordinance allocating $650,000 to acquire the property through eminent domain.

Chiolo was in a mediation session with the city over the property when his attorney told him last month the city had decided to stop its eminent domain effort.

“It was very exciting. The first thing I did was call our staff and let our agents know that we are moving forward with the plans we have been talking about for the last couple of years,” he said.

The city sent residents a letter dated March 23 saying the eminent domain effort was over.

“The city is prohibited by law from making offers far beyond the appraised value of a property,” Bergen said.

According to city tax records, the land is valued at $497,300.

The current plan calls for construction to start in spring 2019 on the office building, with an expected opening in spring 2020, Chiolo said.

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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