first_imgThe marquee on the old Strand Theater teases the planned grand opening of the Manco & Manco flagship pizzeria next spring. By Donald WittkowskiThe next “coming attraction” for the Boardwalk’s iconic Strand Theater won’t be a new movie, but rather a pizzeria.Ocean City planners Tuesday night unanimously approved the now-closed historic theater’s redevelopment into a new flagship store for Manco & Manco Pizza, an iconic Boardwalk business in its own right.In a separate vote, the Planning Board also unanimously approved a new recording studio for Benjamin Jackson Burnley, the front man for the rock band Breaking Benjamin.Redevelopment plans for the Strand, meanwhile, call for converting the building into a pizzeria fronting the Boardwalk on the ground floor. The second floor will become retail space for a tenant that has not yet been named.Representatives of the development group, called OC Boardwalk Holdings LLC, said the project will transform one landmark into a high-profile store for another famous local name.“We’re keeping an icon on the Boardwalk, but also bringing in a new icon,” OC Boardwalk Holdings attorney Daniel Young told the Planning Board of the transition from the Strand to Manco & Manco.The Strand has been a fixture at Ninth Street and the Boardwalk since 1938, but it closed in 2014. The building has remained largely empty since then, although its marquee still peers out over the Boardwalk.The Manco & Manco name will be emblazoned on the marquee in the future. Already, the wording on the marquee has been changed to tease the pizzeria’s scheduled grand opening next spring.William McLees, architect for the Strand’s development group, describes the project to the Ocean City Planning Board.Jon Barnhart, a planner for the development group, said the project is taking the Strand’s historic building “to the next level and continuing to make it an iconic structure in Ocean City.”Planning Board members used similar language while approving the project in an 8-0 vote. They said the building’s redevelopment will create another attraction for Boardwalk crowds.“I believe it’s a strong, adaptive improvement of a building that has been there for many years. It is an icon on the Boardwalk,” Planning Board ChairmanJohn Loeper said.Manco & Manco first announced the project on its Facebook page last June. The new flagship store opening in the Strand building will replace Manco & Manco’s existing pizzeria on the Boardwalk’s 900 block.Manco & Manco will continue to operate its two other pizzerias on the Boardwalk, at Eighth Street and at 12th Street.The pizzeria was originally called Mack & Manco when then-owners Dominic Mack and Frank Manco opened the business on the Boardwalk in 1956. The pizzeria changed its name to Manco & Manco in 2012 and is now under the ownership of husband and wife Chuck and Mary Bangle.Chuck Bangle pleaded guilty last year to income tax evasion on his 2010 returns and with structuring his financial transactions in 2011 to avoid government reporting requirements. His wife has pleaded guilty to lying to IRS agents during the investigation. Both are awaiting sentencing.Representatives of the Strand development group declined to comment to reporters about Bangle or any other aspects of the project after the Planning Board meeting.In other business Tuesday, the board voted 8-0 to give site plan approval for a new recording studio owned by musician, songwriter and producer Benjamin Jackson Burnley of rock band Breaking Benjamin fame.The commercial recording studio is planned in what is now a deteriorated office building at 301 Third St. Burnley plans to add two more stories to the one-story building to create a combination of office space, the recording studio and a small apartment.“We believe this use marries well with the surrounding area,” Tiffany Cuviello, Burnley’s planner, told the board.Cuviello said the building’s appearance will be spruced up with “architectural enhancements.” She also noted there will be parking, safety and flooding improvements.Burnley, who grew up in Ocean City, has already used the building as a personal recording studio, his representatives said. The expansion project will turn it into a commercial studio allowing other musicians to record their work.In public comments to the Planning Board, three neighbors who live near the recording studio expressed concerns about loud music emanating from the building. They also argued that a recording studio would be out of character with the residential parts of the neighborhood.“I don’t think it matches our neighborhood,” said Celeste Duke, who lives on Asbury Avenue close to the recording studio.The Planning Board voted 8-0 to approve the Strand’s redevelopment. It also voted unanimously to approve a new recording studio for Benjamin Jackson Burnley, front man for the rock band Breaking Benjamin.However, another resident of Asbury Avenue, Jill Lemon, spoke in support of Burnley and the recording studio. She said Burnley’s music has never disrupted the neighborhood .“They’ve been nothing but good neighbors,” Lemon said.The Planning Board members accepted testimony from Burnley’s representatives that the studio will be soundproof. They also said the project would help to revitalize the surrounding area with new commercial development.“I really don’t believe you’re going to have noise emanating from that building,” board member Dean Adams said in comments that were echoed by others on the board.last_img

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