State Officials Get An Up-Close Look At The Beachwood Shopping Center Site

Township moves closer to state Planning Commission approval for Town Center redevelopment plan; hearing slated for May 16 in Trenton


Mayor Carmen F. Amato stood in the sunlight on the cracked pavement of the yesterday and shook his head.

The "gateway" to Berkeley Township on Route 9 South has been an embarrassment to more than one township administration and an eyesore to passing motorists. It still is.

"The beginning of our town is right there," said and pointed to the site entrance on the highway. "Our welcome sign is right there," he said, pointing the sign just past the easternmost portion of the shopping center.

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 all that may begin to change on May 16, when the state Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the . Approval of the plan, years in the making, would mean a fresh start for the site and a sources of much-needed ratables.

"I feel good," said Amato, who was sworn into office on New Year's Day. "We are at the point where we need to be. May 16 is going to be a big day for us. It's been a five-year long process since we started the Town Center idea."

Amato met with Gerry Scharfenberger, director of the state Office for Planning Advocacy and Christopher S. Stark, regional director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Gov. Chris Christie, in Town Hall to give them an overview of the redevelopment plan.

"For the state guys to come here and focus on Berkeley Township, says a lot about Berkeley Township," Amato said. "They pick and choose. To come here shows a strong interest."

Then they toured the site, with Township Council members James J. Byrnes, John Bacchione, Judy Noonan, Fran Siddons and Township Administrator Frederick Ebenau. Township Planner James M. Oris and Stanley C. Slachetka of T&M Associates, the township's engineering firm, were also on hand.

"I think this is a quick step in the right direction," said Bacchione.

The decaying buildings and roughly 150 acres of property have been owned by the Johnson family for decades. Brothers and Eugene Johnson have died. The Johnson family does have a very interested buyer - well-known developer D.J. Donofrio.

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.

But unless the state Planning Commission approves the Town Center plan, Donofrio is limited to developing only 30 percent of impervious coverage on the site. If the plan is approved, that percentage would jump to 70 percent, greatly increasing the number of ratables.

D'Onofrio is still interested in the site, said Amato, who met with him on Monday.

"He has some concerns," the mayor said.

The ambitious, four-pronged Town Center plan has been in the works for years. Township Council members signed a memorandum of understanding with the state Office of Smart Growth in September 2009 that calls for four redevelopment zones and the purchase of transfer development rights for a number of parcels of land.

The shopping center - which is located in Berkeley Township, not Beachwood - is ground zero in the Town Center redevelopment plan.

"The township has a significant amount of control over over how it will be developed," said Slachetka.

What would you like to see on the site? Tell us in the comments section below!

Patricia A. Miller (Editor) April 18, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Hi Dave, check out the previous stories on the site on the right hand side of the page. Jimmy Johnson stored cars and other items in an underground garage under the parking lot.
VJ April 18, 2012 at 04:40 PM
What a shame. Jason Varano has done years of work to lay the groundwork for finally fixing up that eyesore. Now this new leech of a mayor will take all the credit for it, and dumb Berkeley residents will gladly give it to him. Glad I'll be moving out of that horrible area before too long.
Chelsea Faith April 18, 2012 at 06:44 PM
^^VJ ...yeah what did he do ?? it still looks like a shit hole, and who said he was taking all the credit, He's a good guy who would give his last penny to anyone needed it. Give him a chance.
Jack Hunter April 18, 2012 at 08:10 PM
VJ, thats why we get to vote . People get elected and some lose . Was this guy to be mayor for life ? I just recall him as a Corzine hack !
Chief Wahoo April 18, 2012 at 08:54 PM
now thats funny !!.....did Varano get a job in the real world yet ?....sure hope so
NanBed April 18, 2012 at 11:25 PM
You are correct Mr. Varano certainly tried. But we need to get this down. There should be no delay in the demo. It should be condemned and demolished immediately. Not only is it an eyesore, it's dangerous. Move the building dept along to condemn it mayor!!!!
Joe April 19, 2012 at 10:13 AM
Uh.....It is in Bayville. Why build something there for Beachwood or Pine Beach.
Beachwood Resident April 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Why not do what Brick and other towns have done with similar plazas and put a viable anchor store like Target surrounded by restaurants and local shops so this will be a plaza that all the surrounding communities can be proud of and not embarrased by. I would welcome it to just bulldozed and figure out what to do with it later- it makes the entire area look like a wellfare state!
The Zipper April 19, 2012 at 12:03 PM
I hope wonder Weiner doesn't go!
holyhhh April 19, 2012 at 01:34 PM
VJ, who really cares which puppet is in "office" when this gets done???? As long as some kind of growth happens in this town I would be happy. Yes, they would need to address the NIGHTMARE of Route 9 and Route 166 in that area. But that is a good thing. I've recently moved to Beachwood and am so upset by this unmotivated, stagnant, trashy town. I wish I never moved here! I've cleaned up trash myself on the corner of Rt. 9 and Surf Ave. (3 trash bags full!!) People were looking at me like I was nuts. What is wrong with this picture??? The next week the area was full of trash again. Nobody cares about their own community here.
smrh April 19, 2012 at 03:32 PM
We need something in there that will make money not cost!! I'm already paying high taxes on a home that should be bigger for the amount I pay!! And I would love to see the bowling alley go back in also!! Or even a cabelas we have a lot of hunters in this area it would bring good money to this town!!
smrh April 19, 2012 at 03:36 PM
To vj ... That's what happens its all politics It's not about who gets the credit .... It's about it getting done and turned in to something that is useful and finally making that area not look like a ghetto!
Rj April 19, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Reallty? a wildlife conservation area? it is people like you that should all move to an untouched island where you can live out in the open with nothing more than what you have available. I am willing to be it wouldnt take long before it is transformed. trees coming down for building homes... it wont be long before you are right where we are now. sooooooooo bad idea bud.. how about rebuilding and putting local people to work instead of a place for birds to linger..
Rj April 19, 2012 at 04:26 PM
verano was the bigest mistake this town ever had.. I am so glad he is gone, should have never been in like Obama big mistake and a waste of money
Fawkes April 19, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Chief Wahoo, Amato has done nothing but bounce around from public job to public job. I think VJ very accurately described him as a leech, as that's exactly what he is. No one in their right mind would hire him in the private sector, so he just sits around and sucks up my hard-earned tax dollars. A side note, Varano worked in the private sector (in the health insurance industry if I recall correctly) long before he became a mayor, continued to do so while mayor, and still does now. That's the problem with you right-wingers: you're totally oblivious to facts. Jack Hunter, If you think Varano was a "Corzine hack," you're too dumb to even deserve a real response.
Rj April 19, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I agree 100%. we need something done in this town. right before Verano left office, my taxes just about doubled. for what? reduced garbage pick up? a town dump that was limited? or many of the other things Verano did away with.. this town does need to look alot better and generate more revenue for the people within it, not just for more money for local govenment that does absolutly no improvements but TAX more for schools.. How about we impose a tax for people who dont keep their homes neat and clean.. let the people who want to live like trash pay for the inconvience of other people having to look at the many disaster homes and buisnesses in this area. this would get this town in order real fast instead of it looking like the ghetto
holyhhh April 19, 2012 at 05:27 PM
VJ, who really cares which puppet is in "office" when this gets done???? As long as some kind of growth happens in this town I would be happy. Yes, they would need to address the NIGHTMARE of Route 9 and Route 166 in that area. But that is a good thing. I've recently moved to Beachwood and am so upset by this unmotivated, stagnant, trashy town. I wish I never moved here! I've cleaned up trash myself on the corner of Rt. 9 and Surf Ave. (3 trash bags full!!) People were looking at me like I was nuts. What is wrong with this picture??? The next week the area was full of trash again. Nobody cares about their own community here.
Keeping whats mine April 20, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Take all the drug scums, chain them together and set em free to clean up that mess. Then dig a big hole and use them as a filler. Just sayin
Keeping whats mine April 20, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Throw in the house thieves too!
Piney Guy April 20, 2012 at 01:25 PM
How about a Cracker Barrel restaurant? There isn't a decent place in town to have breakfast. And maybe a few small stores, with a country theme deco, maybe something like Smitheville. After all this is the Pine Barrens. And definetly NO big box stores!
Rj April 20, 2012 at 01:52 PM
instead of another unhealthy place to eat, we promote a cleaner, more modern and healthier town. not an area for obeasity and lazieness
Rj April 20, 2012 at 01:58 PM
this is a good one.. tak all of the freeloaders down here and make them clean up the town. use them to do all the stuff Verano took away..
Piney Guy April 20, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Country fried steak, Biscuits and gravy, Yummy!
Rj April 20, 2012 at 04:02 PM
I couldn't agree more. definatly the bowling alley, something for kids and families to do. the Cabelas idea is great!! Trader Joes at one end and Cabellas at the other with some nice filler stores and eateries
PeopleAnnoyMe April 20, 2012 at 05:12 PM
What is with you people with putting a park, or putting a wildlife conservation area!!!!! You are living in the wrong place if that is what you wish would go there... I agree that is should be something that will be put our local people back to work!!! Not a place for figgin birds to sit!! I am stunned that people really want a park there, I'm really stunned!!
Piney Guy April 20, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Wow such angry people. Everytime something happens around here, it turns into a political debate on who's fault it is or who should be in office...lol. Just making a observation
Tress April 29, 2012 at 04:23 PM
SAMs Club, Target and Coldstone.. Trader Joe's at the Foodtown site.
wilma augustino May 02, 2012 at 05:00 PM
As a lifelong native to the community I cannot wait for the shopping center to be torn down, it has been a eyesore for too many years. It would be great to have a bowling alley back close to home, and one large department store with small shops around it It would be nice we had a new store rather than the same old, same old.
knarfie May 12, 2012 at 04:31 PM
The problem with Berkeley township is , it is a one way in and out. Route 9 which is the ugliest section of it running through the town and a nightmare of traffic. Brick with its' many roads has great shopping and wonderful restaurants. It is really a matter of geography.
btaylor September 03, 2012 at 01:01 PM
There was an underground parking area which held a dozen or so antique cars. They should put the bowling ally in again


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