The future of the dilapidated Beachwood Shopping Center - the gateway to Berkeley Township - could be decided today.
The township's Town Center plan is on the state Planning Commission's agenda. If approved, it would be the end of a very long road to redevelopment.
"We are very optimistic we have reached the finish line of the planning and approval stage," Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said.
Amato plans to be in Trenton today to attend the hearing.
"The state really became receptive after their site visit back in April to see the urgency of what needs to be done," Amato said. "A picture is worth a thousand words, but nothing can make a bigger impact then seeing it first hand and up close."
Approval of the first phase of the township's massive redevelopment plan means more than just bulldozing an eyesore.
"The Town Center designation is the key to our economic revitalization," Amato said.
And it spells the end of a quest that began during the administration of former Mayor Jason J. Varano.
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 multi-faceted redevelopment plan designed to curb residential development and boost commercial ratables.
"It's a long saga," former Township Planner David G. Roberts said in a 2010 interview. "If we don't keep pushing, it will never happen. I feel like I've been pushing a car uphill, by myself."
The township moved even closer to an approval in June, when a key Planning Implementation Committee agreed to recommend the Town Center plan at the Commission's public hearing in Trenton.
"I wish to thank Chris Stark from the Governor's office, the Lieutenant Governor, Jerry Sharfenburger (sp) Linda Kellner and Karl Hartkoff from the Office of Planning Advocacy for their assistance," Amato said. "From our staff, township planners Jim Oris and Stanley Slachetka along with Dave Roberts for their efforts."
Come back to Berkeley Patch later today for the outcome of the hearing.