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Work a-go at Bishop commercial center?

August 27, 2012

Two local contractors, a construction firm and architect, are currently working to rehabilitate the long-vacant Cottonwood Plaza. The property owner hopes that the completion of a renovation project will attract new tenants to the shopping center. Photo by Deb Murphy

Cottonwood Plaza at the corner of Main and Yaney in Bishop is under construction and contractors hope to have it inhabitable sometime in the near future.
Property owners have hired Rudolph Construction and architect Tom Schaniel to rehabilitate the long-vacant shopping center in hopes of drawing new tenants to the downtown core of Bishop.
“We’re working away, rehabilitating the buildings, so nothing is going to be torn down,” Schaniel said.
Crews have been working since as early as April to make necessary improvements to make the buildings safe and inhabitable, despite complications that arose when the principal owner of the property died earlier this year.
For more than three years, the buildings sat vacant and the property in various states of neglect as their respective owners argued over the fate of the plaza. A new owner emerged last year to take the reins and begin renovating the buildings in hopes of attracting retailers or other businesses.
Schaniel said work on the property has been sporadic this year, as property owners sorted through plans for the buildings, but now construction crews are gaining steam.
“The buildings are great structurally, we’ve redone the sprinkler system and are working on some electrical issues,” he said. “We’ll solve all those problems.”
Schaniel said crews are working on renderings for the building, which “aren’t ready for public consumption” at this time. But, he said, as plans come together, the public will be informed about intentions for the property.
As for the renovations, the architect said it is too early to speculate on projected completion dates, but he said he is in the process of developing a solid timeline.
Schaniel said that the conceptual drawings of Cottonwood Plaza that he has been working on will be released to the public once they are complete.
He also said that the property owner will begin looking for occupants for the buildings when rehabilitation of the project nears completion.
The plaza has been empty since the start of 2009 and, at the time, progress on leases, ownership and other factors was slow, as was the receipt of a clean bill of health from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, which investigated possible groundwater contamination in April 2011. The corner of North Main and West Yaney was the site of a fueling station in 1974.
The plaza was built in 1978, a joint venture between Dwayne Wilson of Dwayne’s Friendly Pharmacy, and business partners Mert Wiedmann and Leland Bell of Shafter.
The first floor of the west building was once the site of a Thrifty Drug Store, where Wilson was the pharmacist, but has remained mostly vacant with boarded windows since 1999.
The modern story of the plaza started in June 2008.
A sublease between the ground lessee, Charles Caldwell, represented by Kearsarge Investments, and the building lessee, Richard Maudsley, expired in June 2008 and control of the buildings and property went back into the hands of Caldwell.
Kearsarge leased the land from Robert Crosby, and then Kearsarge subeased to Maudsley. When Maudsley’s lease ran out, Kearsarge regained control. It was at this time that Kearsarge filed suits of “unlawful detainer,” or eviction action, against the remaining tenants, which included Burger King, Hing’s Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Devon’s Flower Patch, Imperial Gourmet, Subway, Main Street Trading Company, Lyons Jewelers, a hair salon and several County of Inyo and private offices.
The businesses were given the order to vacate on or around Jan. 1, 2009.
Burger King closed unexpectedly to many employees and patrons on Christmas Day 2008 and never re-opened.
Some businesses were able to relocate, some went under and then a fence was erected around the property and windows boarded up.

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