Ask Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. what his number one goal is for the year and he answers without hesitation.
Ratables, ratables, ratables.
"The immediate challenge is to get some economic growth in the township," he said in a recent interview in his office at Town Hall.
Berkeley, a traditionally retail-poor town, has seen even more businesses shuttered over the past several months. The biggest blow was the Food Circus' closure of the Bayville Super Foodtown in the Baywick Plaza off Route 9.
The supermarket was the anchor store for mall's other businesses.
Amato is determined to do as much as possible to speed up state approval of Berkeley's Town Center plan, a portion of the township's massive redevelopment plan.
He has invited Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to tour the deteriorating Beachwood Shopping Center, ground zero in the redevelopment plan. So far, he hasn't gotten an answer.
"I'm trying to get her down to tour the Town Center property," he said. "This way she can get a first hand feel of the .... I think they need to actually see it."
The Beachwood Shopping Center - dubbed Town Center 1 - is just one component or "node" in the township's massive redevelopment plan. The Berkeley Plaza shopping center, which has Shop Rite as the anchor store, and the land around Frederick Drive and the Shar-A-Dee apartments is designated as Town Center 2.
The third portion of the redevelopment plan is the extension of a light industrial area along Hickory Lane. The fourth section involves more intensive mixed use development of 73 parcels along Route 9 near Harbor Inn Road.
Township Engineer James M. Oris said earlier year that state Planning Commission approval for the Town Center portion of the plan could come by late spring or early summer.