UPDATE: State Planning Commission Members Unanimously Approve Town Center Plan

Years-long quest to redevelop the Beachwood Shopping Center site finally succeeds

The Beachwood Shopping Center - long a blight on Route 9 South - may soon be a thing of the past.

State Planning Commission members today voted unanimously to approve the first portion of the township's plan.

The vote paves the way for the demolition and eventual redevelopment of the dilapidated, decaying shopping center that more than one mayor has dubbed an embarrassment.

"We have been approved!" a jubilant Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said late this afternoon.

Amato, Township Council President and Township Councilman John Bacchione traveled to Trenton today to read their comments on the plan into the record.

"Through plan endorsement, Berkeley Township will be able to redevelop stagnant and declining commercial areas in the township; create a vibrant new Berkeley Town Center; bring new jobs and ratables to the township; provide needed shopping and services for  our residents and improve traffic flow along the Route 9 corridor and throughout the township," Amato said in his remarks to the Commission.

Amato - a former two-term Ward 2 Township Councilman - was sworn into his first mayoral term on New Year's Day. He said his primary goal was bringing more ratables to retail-poor Berkeley.

"The immediate challenge is to get some economic growth in the township," he said in a February interview in his office at Town Hall.

The is an old one. It began during the administration of former longtime .

But the redevelopment was stalled by the lack of state approval, the number of state permits needed and the contamination on the site.

"After ten years of work with contributions by scores of professionals and volunteers, countless meetings and collaboration between the township, Ocean County and a variety of state agencies, I am thrilled that all of our planning has been officially endorsed and that our Town Center is part of the state plan," Varano said Friday.

Varano also praised members of the Planning Board and the Endorsement Advisory Committee for their guidance during the early stages of the plan process.

"I am very happy for our community and hopeful that we will stay committed to following through with taking our Town Center from a vision to a reality," Varano said.

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

The Planning Commission approval increases the amount of impervious coverage on the site that can be developed from 30 percent to 70 percent.

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.

Amato earlier this year had invited Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno to visit the site. Although Guadagno never came, in April. The township got a boost in June when the State Implementation Committee recommended the Planning Commissio approve the plan.

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.

Berkeley Patch will continue to follow this developing story and what it means to Berkeley Township.





Bill Storm, July 06, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Thomas July 07, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Great job to ALL involved!! Start the demo now. Please put a nice town center up and not just another strip center. Look at other states and their town centers, much nicer than anything up here now.
Thomas July 07, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Wait, what?!? What's a disgrace? The fact that after all these years that eye sore of a strip center is going away?
Betsy Huhn July 07, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Great job by all involved...Past and Present!!!! Keep up the good work........
Betsy Huhn July 07, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Arnold...although I am almost afraid to ask...Please explain your Comment!!!!!
John M July 07, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Hats off to everyone involved from Jason to Carmen. Now let's move quick before something changes.
Keeping whats mine July 07, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I hope the name changes first. Then rt. 9 needs to be addressed before any building is done. If the "Town Centers" ever get completed 9 will be a long parking lot, as if its not already. I am for progress, but it needs to be done right the first time or it will be forever wrong.
Keeping whats mine July 07, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Just look at rt 72. Thats the new Rt 9 traffic when the "town center" opens. Enjoy!
Natty Bumppo July 07, 2012 at 12:57 PM
One has to be amused how Amato is taking credit for this. The proverbial football has been moving down field all these years and this guy gets on the bench when the ball finally gets on the goaline and he wants it to look as if he did this single handedly. If he wants us to believe he can work his political voodoo magic then why couldn't he save that other shopping center?
knarfie July 07, 2012 at 01:01 PM
You don't understand. This is what politicians do. Not only him. Any opportunity to take a bow.
sandy bottom July 07, 2012 at 01:15 PM
its all Donofrio and his money that got it done so he can make more money,I'm for cleaning it up,but do we need more empty strip malls,town center 2 ,3,and 4 come on enough,maybe we should build condos
Cindi Arteglier July 07, 2012 at 01:27 PM
It's about time. That strip mall site is an eyesore and embarrassment to both the township and its residents. I agree with Thomas, please design the site as a "downtown" style center, perhaps like Smithville. I own a small shop in another town; I'd love to move it to my hometown in a nice community center.
Terry July 07, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I just can’t believe you people. You would rather live around that unsightly depressing strip mall than have someone clean it up and make it presentable. Or are you people just annoyed and irritated that Mayor Amato was able to accomplish something that Verano was unable to bring to fruition? Why not get on board and join the people who are celebrating that their town might have a revival and will stop looking like Dog Patch.
Cindi Arteglier July 07, 2012 at 04:12 PM
It doesn't matter that this finally got approved under Amato. We all know that it was years in the making and dozens of people's hard work that got it done. The only thing that matters is that it's finally approved and we can all move forward with improving our community. Let's put politics aside and work together for the good of all.
L & M July 07, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I have lived in Bayville, a looked at the blighted Beachwood Shopping Center for close to 40 years. It has taken a long time, and the efforts of a lot of people to get us to where we are today. Congratulations Mayor Amato for all your hard work, and getting the deal sealed. All the residents of Berkeley Township will see the benefit of this project for many years to come. Keep up the good work.
Natty Bumppo July 07, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Yeah, it's all Amato's doing, you got that right! Let's see him fix the other shopping centers. I'll give him 40 years.
Frank B July 07, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Congradulation to ALL that worked toward this object...... It's a good thing for Bayville! Please use the Route 9 improvements in front of Home Depot as a guide to the road improvements for Rt 9 in front of the new "Towne Center"
JerseyVet July 08, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Is that where Sams Club is going?
Suzyq July 09, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Congratulations to all involved in getting this accomplished! Does anyone have any idea what is going there or where the Foodtown used to be?
NicoleL July 10, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Nice, finally! Very glad to see this!
foggyworld November 18, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Wonderful work by the State Commission? Is this a needed group?


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