As small-town America continues to be overshadowed by large corporate chains, municipalities have sought innovative ways to jump-start local businesses. Council hopes to do just that, according to Mayor Rick Miller.
Over the years, the borough has for a variety of reasons acquired numerous properties along the pike, including 87 and 89 South White Horse Pike, which share one building. The borough recently awarded a contract to demolish the building because of safety concerns pertaining to its structure, including a front façade that is falling.
While council has encouraged other small businesses to open in Berlin Borough, members decided to do something with properties that council has taken possession of in recent years. That convinced the borough to come up with a potential use for the pike property, according to Miller.
“The overhang of the building was beginning to fall down so we had the Department of Public Works head out to take that down … And afterwards, the local governing body came together and kind of realized that we’re asking others to kind of invest in their properties and fix them up,” Miller said. “But we’re sitting on this property that’s falling apart. So we need to do something about it.”
With the building’s demolition underway, the borough hopes to spur development at the location in the future, including the possibility of a beer garden.
“We don’t want it to just sit there and be mud and dirt after the building comes down, so we’re looking to lay down some crushed stone and come up with some ideas to use that property, potentially, as a beer garden,” the mayor said.
“We don’t have anything set at this time, but our thinking is that while we wait for more redevelopment to happen, we can at least utilize this space.”
According to Municipal Clerk Dwayne Harris, the borough is also in the process of acquiring a property at 71 South White Horse Pike through eminent foreclosure.
During a meeting earlier this fall, council passed a resolution authorizing a cleanup that would see the removal of over 500 car and truck tires both inside and on the back of the property. The borough allowed the Department of Public Works to spray the site for breeding mosquitoes, according to borough officials.
Moving forward, the town hopes to utilize two nearby pike properties, as well as others, to bring new opportunities to downtown Berlin.
“We’re open to any and all ideas to revitalize the downtown,” said Miller. “The issue is that we’re, of course, subject to the economy and what’s in vogue at that time. This was a great opportunity to bring something to the downtown area with regard to (87 and 89 S. White Horse Pike), because we own that property and it really had to come down in general for safety reasons. So to be able to utilize it in this way will be a big benefit.”
Further down the White Horse Pike, the borough is excited about the future of the Berlin Shopping Center, recently purchased by a redeveloper. Miller said Berlin officials have been in discussions with various potential buyers in recent months.
“Speaking with them, they’ve said their first order of business will be to bring some life back into the property,” Miller noted. “I’ve mentioned to them things that I’ve heard a bunch of residents say that they’d like to see: potentially a grocery store, some retail locations and other things.
“But of course, it’s up to what the market ultimately determines.”