Once thriving, Dan’s Seafood property now crumbling on the bay

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The once thriving area of Palen Avenue on the bay that contained Hogate’s, Chris’s and Dan’s is now deteriorating. The city and neighbors would like to see the Dan’s property made safe again. The once thriving area of Palen Avenue on the bay that contained Hogate’s, Chris’s and Dan’s is now deteriorating. The city and neighbors would like to see the Dan’s property made safe again. OCEAN CITY – Over 50 years ago, the 900 block of Palen Avenue was a hotbed of commercial activity. With the popular Hogate’s on the corner by the bridge, Chris’s Restaurant next door and Dan’s Seafood and Marina on the corner of 10th Street, the area thrived from sunup to sundown during the busy summers.

“It was a busy, busy street,” said Carla Migliaccio, who grew up in the middle of the block, across the street from the bay.

The family enjoyed a spectacular view of the bay, the most beautiful sunsets in the world and an unsurpassed people-watching opportunity, she said.

“A lot of people would come over and hang out on our porch,” said Migliaccio, who still lives in her childhood home.

The ’50s and ’60s, she said, were an “awesome” time; the street was in its heyday. The restaurant parking lots would fill with happy customers. Chris Montagna’s boats, including the Flying Saucer, would leave the docks several times a day.

“There was always something happening,” she said. “You’d see people go out on the boat in their go-to-meeting clothes on Sunday and come back soaking wet. It’s been interesting, life on Palen Avenue. I miss those days. Night in Venice was just so cool back here. We’d sit on the fishing pier at 10th Street and watch the boats go by. There would be people everywhere. At dark, they’d set off fireworks on the island across from us.”

“If I close my eyes, I can still see Chris’s, and Hogate’s, the lines of people waiting to be seated for dinner,” she said. “I enjoy thinking about the places that I love and remember.”

Dan’s, she said, provided fresh seafood and a marina, including a gasoline dock.

“The boats would come in and out, the activity never stopped,” she said.

Now, the view from her porch is quite different.

“Times have changed,” she said. 

A condominium project replaced the restaurants, and though Dan’s, at 115 W. 10th St. was renovated several years ago, it was long ago abandoned. The docks are deteriorating and decaying. In a word, she said, it is “deplorable.”

“The sad truth is that no one can do much about it,” Migliaccio said. “Unless someone is interested in a long-term investment, it won’t change and I don’t see anyone putting the money out. Everything over there is rotten, the docks, the bulkhead, and it’s not safe. That’s what we worry about.”

In May, the city installed security fencing around the property. At the time, Mayor Jay Gillian expressed discontent with the property at a City Council meeting. What happens next is up in the air.  

“It’s in foreclosure,” city attorney Dottie McCrosson said, adding that two banks are trying to sell the property rather than take it to a sheriff’s sale.

According to the city’s tax records, Capitol Builders, Inc. and BNB Bank of New York own four contiguous lots, including Dan’s Dock and the seafood restaurant.

“The banks started the foreclosure process years ago,” McCrosson said. “Two banks have an interest in the property, and they have not been able to find a buyer, with a deal that is satisfactory to both banks.”

Several neighbors complained about the deteriorating condition, and McCrosson said Gillian grew increasingly concerned about the situation.

“Aside from all of the improvements on the lot, including the building, the bulkhead and the docks, there was a floating dock that looked like it could break loose and float into the channel,” McCrosson said.

If that happened, she said, it could have been a disaster.

“The mayor sent a letter to the banks,” she said. “He asked them to secure the property, to put up a fence to keep people from going on to the property. The city continues to maintain correspondence with the bank.”

The banks reimbursed the city for the cost of the security fence.

“It’s an ongoing process,” McCrosson said. “The property is ready to go to a sheriff’s sale, but the banks have not made a move to do that. Right now, it’s in the process, but legally an LLC owns the property. The LLC has no assets, this property is already upside down more or less. If anything were to happen, there would be no way to recover. If someone were to walk in there and fall it could be a big problem.”

“The banks do not want to be in that position, to be liable,” she said. “That’s my guess as to why they haven’t pulled the trigger. There are a lot of issues and it would cost a lot of money to make that property safe.”

Jim Mallon, the city’s community services director, said the city “is looking into options for the property.”

“Our first priority is to make sure it’s safe and secure,” he said. “The bulkheads and docks are deteriorating. We’re trying to get the property maintenance issues taken care of, keeping in mind that it’s a very valuable piece of real estate and once provided a very valuable service.”

Today, even as hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive on the island on the new $500 million bridge, the corner property remains in limbo.

Migliaccio said she and her neighbors appreciated the city’s efforts to at least try to keep it safe.

“They put up ‘No Trespassing’ signs and chained it. Hopefully people won’t shimmy through the gate. It’s a sad, unfortunate situation,” she said. “This is not the city’s fault; they have been very helpful in at least trying to keep people out. They’ve done all they could.  It’s a sign of the times. A marina is not an easy investment.”

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