Berkeley Gets Boost From Key Committee For Town Center Approval
Mayor hopeful state Planning Commission will approve Berkeley's massive redevelopment plan on June 20
The end is in sight.
If all goes well, state Planning Commission members will endorse the Berkeley's Town Center plan on June 20, Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said.
"We are now at the end of the road, really," Amato announced at the June 12 Township Council meeting.
The township moved even closer to next week's approval today, when a key Planning Implementation Committee agreed to recommend the Town Center plan at the Commission's public hearing in Trenton next week, he said.
"I will be in attendance on June 20 to provide public testimony," Amato said. "We are at the end of the line. We are on our way."
The Planning Commission's endorsement would spell the end of the years-long battle to get the redevelopment plan approved and the beginning of the end for the dilapidated Beachwood Shopping Center on Route 9.
The battered, vacant shopping plaza has been an embarrassment to more than one township administration. It's also a danger, with cracked windows, sagging overhangs and crumpled roof sections.
The L-shaped mall - once home to a Woolworth's, supermarket, bowling alley, Jersey Mike's and a slew of other stores - has sat unused and slowly deteriorating for almost a decade. Sections of roofs are starting to cave in and yellow tape lines the parking lot to keep trespassers out.
But developer Donato J. Donofrio is still interested in redeveloping the property. The Township Council approved another six-month extension for his firm REC Centers, LLC as the designated redeveloper for the Phase 1 redevelopment plan at Tuesday's meeting.
The decaying buildings and roughly 150 acres of property have been owned by the Johnson family for decades. Brothers James "Jimmy" Johnson and Eugene Johnson have died.
But the site comes with other problems. The Johnson family's former asphalt plant behind the shopping center is contaminated by piles of coal tar illegally dumped years ago. The tar has to be removed and the soil remediated.
Donofrio and the Johnson family have worked out a settlement for clean-up costs of the asphalt plant property. The contamination does not extend to the shopping mall section, Amato said.
Donofrio is currently limited to developing only 30 percent of impervious coverage on the site. If the state Planning Commission approves the Town Center plan, that percentage would jump to 70 percent, greatly increasing the number of ratables.