BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Business and municipal officials met this morning to talk about making downtown Berkeley Heights a more welcoming, pedestrian-friendly area that not only attracts businesses, but keeps them.

The Suburban Chamber of Commerce sponsored Breakfast with the Mayor this morning at town hall, giving local business people a chance to hear about initiatives the town is looking toward for giving Berkeley Heights a shot in the economic arm.

Mayor Joe Bruno talked about the new businesses coming into the town, and assured those assembled that the town is aware of the things that need to be done to attract even more businesses to town to fill empty store fronts and revitalize the downtown.

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“We should make ourselves a business-friendly community,” said Bruno, who recently retired after 38 years as an executive with JC Penney. “There’s a lot we can do to make Berkeley Heights appealing.”

The mayor referred to the four Ps of good business: promotion, place, people and product.

“We’ve already got the place,” he said. “Berkeley Heights is a great community. You know that – it’s why you opened your business here.”

The town has been named one of the best communities in the state by Money Magazine and New Jersey Monthly.

Bruno pointed to the town’s need for a Special Improvement District, something fellow Suburban Chamber towns Summit and New Providence already have in place.

“If they think it’s a good idea, it probably is,” he said. “Why don’t we have one?”

The mayor said Berkeley Heights is “looking for an identity,” something that can be helped with a few touches that will give the downtown a unified look. He said the town is looking to purchase three town clocks, one by the train station and two at the entrances to the town. He also said he’d like to see paver stones on downtown sidewalks, like those already in place in front of Marcello’s. Paver stones, lamp posts and benches would make the downtown feel welcoming.

“It’s time for us to make our community homogenized,” Bruno said. “We need to make it a walking community.”

Township Administrator Amey Upchurch pointed out that the town tree is a dogwood, known for its springtime white blossoms. She said the town would like to incorporate more dogwood trees into the streetscape, particularly around the train station, to help give the town an identity.

“We want people to know they’re approaching Berkeley Heights,” she said.

Upchurch talked about two state funding programs the town wants to apply for, including Main Street New Jersey and the Improvement District program. To get ready to apply for those, she said, the town needs a commercial concentration, an idea of how they want the town to look, and broad-based support within the town.

Police Chief Michael Mathis gave an overview of what the police department is doing in town, and how it benefits the business community. His department has recently revived the Crime Prevention Unit and trained new officers, who he said will visit businesses for a security assessment.

Mathis also has reinstituted the downtown walking beat, which now includes a bicycle patrol, and a youth academy for those young residents interested in a future with law enforcement.

The police department also has started up the former Traffic Bureau, which will be a boon to downtown safety and peace of mind for those who own businesses in town.

Dr. Patrick Smith, who is on the Suburban Chamber board, gave an overview of ongoing and upcoming events in town, including:

  • BHTV, Berkeley Heights’ local TV station, a joint effort under the leadership of the Communications Committee that includes Governor Livingston High School. “This Week in Berkeley Heights” news program airs weekly.
  • The new township website, www.berkeleyheightstwp.com , which offers up-to-date information aimed at helping residents stay connected to what’s happening in town.
  • The Collection, the Chamber’s 40,000-circulation publication
  • The Rubber Ducky festival, scheduled for Saturday, June 9 (rain date June 23), a community event held annually to raise funds for the Berkeley Heights Rotary Club. Sponsorship opportunities are available.
  • A “Shop Local” mailer sent out in the spring. Smith said the mailing was so successful, the Chamber hopes to do another one in the fall, if not sooner.
  • Jersey Pilot’s baseball is coming to Snyder Avenue Park in June. The semi-professional team made up of local college stars will play on Thursdays and Sundays. Sponsorship opportunities ar available.
  • Berkeley Heights Summer Concert Series in the Park (Memorial Field) and Movies in the Park will get underway again in July. Tom Barton, recreation director, has more information on sponsorship opportunities.
  • Height’s Fest 2012 is a new festival that will be held on Saturday, Aug. 4 (rain date Aug. 5). More information is available at www.heightsfest.com. Sponsorship and vendor opportunities are available.
  • The 16th Annual Berkeley Heights 5K Charity Road Race and Fitness Walk is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 16 at Memorial Field. Sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, visit www.berkeleyheights5k.com.
  • Community Pig Roast and Family Barbecue is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 22 at the VFW on Locust Avenue.  Details, ticket information and sponsorship opportunities are available via the chamber weekly eblasts.