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Permits ready for shopping center remodel
Shopping Center
Rotting beams, blistering paint and outdated looks are a problem in the Whitmore Plaza Shopping Center. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Building permits are ready for the facelift of the Bank of America on Mitchell Road, which will be the beginning of a remodel of the Whitmore Plaza Shopping Center which dates back to the Jimmy Carter Administration.

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. The permits to remodel the stand-alone bank building are ready to be picked up while permits for the other two buildings within the center were submitted two weeks ago and are being plan checked. The city could take take a month to approve those plans with permits ready to be issued before the end of the year and construction starting after that.

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.