Thanks, but no thanks.
The redeveloper of record for the dilapidated Beachwood Shopping Center on Route 9 South has walked away from the project, Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said.
Township Council President James J. Byrnes was informed by Donato Donofrio that he was no longer interested in redeveloping the site because of the poor economy, Amato said.
"I asked him if he's still interested, he said they are done," Byrnes said. "With the economy and the amount of money they would need to invest..."
The news was a blow to ratable-poor Berkeley and its massive redevelopment plan. The long-vacant, battered shopping center was ground zero in the redevelopment plan. It's been an eyesore on Route 9 South for many years.
"It's unfortunate," Amato said. "I know he's made a large investment already. Our main concern right now is bring the property up to code."
The site is owned by Priscilla Oughton, daughter of the late James E. Johnson, who built the shopping center decades ago. The site has been a bane to more than one township administration over the past 15 years.
Township officials recently cracked down on Oughton and sent her a letter demanding that the site be demolished and cleaned up immediately. One of the stores caught fire at the height of Superstorm Sandy.
Her lawyer fired back with a response claiming some of the damage was a result of the storm and asked for more time to inspect the site.
The township's years-long quest to have the redevelopment plan approved ended in July, when the state Planning Commission unanimously approved 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 ShopRite 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.