Mayor Jim Bilella focused, excited about Berlin Borough’s future

Mayor Bilella is focusing on preserving open space and redevelopment in downtown Berlin. His goal is for Berlin to be seen as a business town.

Mayor Jim Bilella. Photo credit: Marie Ryan Photography

There’s no denying the excitement in Mayor Jim Bilella’s voice over the phone as he talks about the progression of Berlin Borough. From the time he was sworn in as mayor 10 months ago, quite a bit of improvement has been made throughout the town.

On Oct. 12, the government received a fully executed escrow agreement with Royal Farms for the property on the corner of Cross Keys Road and White Horse Pike. That property has been known as an eyesore for some time, and no taxpayer dollars will be spent working on the site’s redevelopment plan.

The same month, Bilella also said for the first time in the history of Berlin Borough, he and council reached an agreement to purchase a significant portion of the Simone Farms property on Clementon Road, using funds from the open space account. Housing development will be stopped on the site, and it will be used for open space preservation.

There’s no stopping Bilella and his government, with more major development changes planned down the road. He is focusing on preserving more open space and redevelopment in downtown Berlin, the former Kmart Shopping Center and commercial properties on Route 73.

His goal is for Berlin to be seen as a business town.

“We like having our businesses here. We want to have other businesses here,” he said. “We want to tell other people to bring their business here and tell them it’s a great place to do business. That’s my master goal. When businesses start wanting to come to my town, that’s when the snowball effect is going to start. That’s really what I’ve been doing for the past 10 months.”

Bilella says it’s important for his town to bring in revenue so it can provide the services it needs to its residents.

“People feel better about the town they work and live in, and at the same time, you generate more revenue,” he said. “That’s why I thought that needed to be the focus on our government, to really help maneuver and lead the effort on redevelopment.”

Besides working on bringing new business to Berlin, he is making sure the current businesses owned by residents in the town are happy with how things are going.

“Changing the ship of government is not an easy thing to do, but we have a lot of excitement going on. A lot of business owners that live in town are happy; they feel like somebody cares about them. That’s important.”

What’s also important to him is a strong sense of community and making the residents, life-long or new, feel like they matter.

“We want the people to feel good about where they live,” he said. “Residents who just moved in less than a year ago or someone who’s lived here their whole life, everybody feels like they are a part of the town, and they are proud of the idea we are pushing the redevelopment of the downtown and other commercial properties.”

The Downtown Berlin Revitalization Corp., a non-profit organization, was created to preserve and promote downtown Berlin as a desirable destination to live, work and visit, and will be offering a number of programs to local businesses, including façade, sign design, window display, business building and revitalization programs.

“With that strong sense of community, we’ve been able to engage our business owners and residents,” Bilella said. “We all as a town, we all have to pitch in. We want this to happen. Not just myself and the council, it’s all of us that make it happen. We are actively engaging the community to be part of the rebirth of Berlin. We’ve been getting so much positive feedback.”