BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Suburban Chamber of Commerce hosted their monthly networking breakfast on Friday with over 60 attendees filling the public room of the Berkeley Heights Town Hall.

The local businesses were greeted with the sound of traditional Irish music from musicians from the Gov. Livingston Highlander Marching Band. The large crowd enjoyed a special breakfast buffet with soda bread and bagels and an Irish Coffee bar.

Mayor Bob Woodruff provided the state of Berkeley Heights and walked through the redevelopment plans for downtown Berkeley Heights, stating:

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  • The new sign for the Berkeley Shopping Center will be going up, the Planning Board had addressed that a few weeks ago.
  • Redevelopment with respect to Affordable Housing -- "We had properties to fix and we had the properties to build on, we had the properties that developers were interested in. This will have tremendous impact on downtown," said Woodruff. We will probably have 1,600 to 2,000 new residents in town. --  Kings, the Movie Theater, area next to Delicious Heights (potentially 62 townhouse units), we will probably have about 600 to 700 new people moving into that area over the next two to three years, he said.
  • Yard at the end of Lone Pine Drive is part of the affordable housing plan. -- Developers have come forward in that area in a preliminary nature. "There are other components that have to be worked out including traffic," said Woodruff.
  • 55+ development on Locust will be started in the next six months.
  • Council passed the bond ordinance for $28M for the redevelopment of the Municipal Complex. The architect has been hired -- working on more specific designs. The construction of the new salt dome is the first step of the project -- construction to begin late summer. This is the first step of a four step process in dealing with this site, said Woodruff. The new municipal complex will be built on the current salt dome site.
  • Sherman Avenue will be designed to be a walking boulevard.
  • The Township is in final stages in dealing with Little Flower Church. -- Developers are interested in Little Flower Hamilton Avenue property to build 100 high end townhomes. "Each of those doors has a value in the purchase," said Woodruff. That is what we are hoping to bring in to offset that $28M, he said.
    • As a property developed under the Non-Condemnation Redevelopment Law, the Township does not have to put down 5 percent,  the Township has controls the development of the property, and "not only this project -- all the other  redevelopment projects have a tax component to them at the conclusion," said Woodruff. "The PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) function which the State Statute allows with respect to payment upfront a significant amount of money from the developers." Woodruff explained that with every tax dollar coming in, a large portion goes to the School Board (about 56%), County (23-24%) and remainder goes to the Township with a portion to the Library. "Under a PILOT program, we have no obligation to give to any other entity other than the County to a small extent."  That becomes revenue to the Township -- which the township plans to use to pay down the debt, said Woodruff. 
  • Vito's Property -- a number of condos and a park.
  • Peppertown Park -- change the face of the park, make it more usable and attractive.
  • Library will be part of the new municipal building. While under the construction -- the Library will most likely be operating out of the rectory.
  • Berkeley Heights YMCA -- The YMCA is seeking to find a new home at the Community Pool location.
  • Master Plan is up this year -- Woodruff asked the businesses to come forward with their thoughts. 

Dr. Patrick Smith asked if there would be a home for the Suburban Chamber of Commerce meetings in the new Municipal Complex. Mayor said that there should not be a problem to continue these monthly breakfast meetings in the new space.

"The town is here to work with us and we are here to work with the town," said Smith.

The breakfast was sponsored by Primrose School of Berkeley Heights. Dunkin Donuts partnered with the Chamber to donate the coffee for the 2017 monthly meetings.

The Suburban Chamber of Commerce is hosting their 7th Annual Service Award Dinner on March 22 at the Grand Summit Hotel. Ted Romankow will receive the Good Neighbor Award for his work on the restoration of the Veterans Memorial Park. Other recipients include: Marin Mixon for President's Award; The Prestige Diner for Business of the Year; David Dietze for Citizen of the Year;  NJ Sharing Network for Organization of the Year; Mountain Valley Joint Dispatch Center for Public Service Award; and Peter Twill for Silver Service Award.   

Visit the Suburban Chamber of Commerce website for upcoming events and learn about ways to be involved.