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BofA underdoing facelift as first in center
Construction crew men work to remove the overhangs and corridor pillars from the Bank of America building on Mitchell Road as the first stage of a shopping center remodel. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Work has started on a new facade for the Bank of America building as the entire shopping center it's located inside will follow.

Owners of the Whitmore Plaza Shopping Center are planning to give a new look and bring new life. The center's looks date back to the 1970s.

Customers will be able to access the bank during construction through a temporary protective box-like opening.

The center suffers from a number of significant vacancies and a façade change could rejuvenate the center and create more interest among prospective tenants.
In July the Ceres Planning Commission approved a plan to remodel the center at the southwest corner of Whitmore Avenue and Mitchell Road.

Empty spaces exist where Round Table Pizza was in the 1990s and the former Rite Aid space that was vacated to go farther north on Mitchell Road. The remodel is intended to give the center a modern look in an effort to become more attractive to shoppers.

Tom Westbrook, the city's director of Community Development said the façades look as dated as the late 1970s when the center was built. Laminated wood used in some of the façade is coming apart and suffering from dry rot and peeling paint. It should have the look of a brand-new shopping center once completed.

Save Mart plans to relocate from its existing store location and shift to the vacant space to the east that once was occupied by Rite Aid. Plans are also to enclose the former Rite Aid garden area next to the Bank of America and be included in the new Save Mart store. The move will expand the size of Save Mart which is gearing up for the possibility of competition when the Walmart Supercenter is built.

The work will include removing the sections and overhangs that jut out and adding a cedar-colored horizontal cement lap siding with metal shade canopies, and vertical corrugated metal accents. Different colors will be added to stucco finish, including Norfolk cream, Texas Sage, Kendall Charcoal and Tucson Red.

"Bank of America is very eager to get this part done," said Gregor Markel of the Dahlin Group, the project architects. "They're concerned about the look - the facades are dated and in need of replacement and the owner really would like to get moving as quickly as possible."

Markel said he didn't know when construction would start but said it could take up to six months. Construction will be planned in phases so that none of the businesses will be disrupted, he told the commission.

The last construction in the center occurred when Cruisers and Prime Shine Car Wash opened last year after the leveling of Barbour's Save Center. In 2003 Taco Bell tore down its old building to rebuild the newer restaurant to the east.