Rudolph Construction and subcontractors (above) are busy working on renovations at the Cottonwood Plaza at the intersection of Main and Yaney streets in Bishop as property owners begin considering options for filling the vacant buildings and looking at ways to get the public involved in future plans for the shopping center. Photos by Mike Gervais
Owners of the Cottonwood Plaza in Bishop are looking to the community for input on the future of the shopping center as local contractors continue renovations on the buildings.
After years of legal debates that stalled efforts to re-open the plaza, then the death of an owner earlier this year, the Denman family has gotten the ball rolling on internal improvements intended to bring Cottonwoodâ€™s buildings up to code and attract businesses to the long-vacant complex.
But before any grand openings are scheduled or ribbons are cut, the Denmans want to ensure the public is aware of coming changes and has had an opportunity to weigh in on future plans for the Plaza.
Cottonwood improvements â€śare ongoing,â€ť Peter Denman said, adding that most of the work being done now is internal. He said crews have recently completed upgrades to the fire safety system in Cottonwood, and electrical work, which has been a challenge for contractors, will hopefully be completed by the summer of 2013.
In the coming months, the Denmans are planning to have contractors reconstruct outside utilities, such as gas and sewer lines, and rebuild the parking area with upgraded lighting.
â€śWe have to do all the unseen things first,â€ť Peter said. â€śThe cosmetics are important, but theyâ€™re generally the last thing you do.â€ť
Susan Denman said that the upgrades that are being made to the shopping centerâ€™s electrical system have the potential to cut tenantsâ€™ electric bills in half.
Susan said construction crews are focusing their efforts on the front building in the Plaza right now, and will move on to the former Burger King building before tackling the larger back building, which is designed to house a large, grocery store-type business, with office space upstairs.
The final phase of the project will be cosmetics, including paint and landscaping, and possibly a redesign of the railing and posts for the upstairs portions of the Plaza.
The Denmans said it is important to them that the community is involved in the shopping centerâ€™s development.
To that end, most every step of the way they have hired local contractors to manage improvements, and are planning to engage the community in a discussion about the future.
That discussion, Susan said, will include important information about who community members would like to see occupy the shopping center and whether it should be renamed.
Another idea the Denmans have been tossing around is the potential to tap into the high-speed fiber-optic cable being installed through the Digital 395 project, which might help attract Internet-based businesses, or provide an added convenience to retailers.
â€śWe want to make it as attractive as possible,â€ť Peter said. â€śWe want to engage the community in a way that hasnâ€™t been done before.â€ť
Peter added that the family is planning to reach out to the Bishop Paiute Tribe to see if it is interested in occupying any of the stores or office space that will be available in the Plaza.
â€śWe want to approach the tribe and see their interests,â€ť Peter said. â€śThey have fabulous crafts they have done historically, but they have no outlet.â€ť
The most important thing, both Susan and Peter said, is that the community is engaged as work at Cottonwood moves forward.
â€śThese arenâ€™t so much plans, as questions we want to put to the community,â€ť Peter said.
In the coming weeks, the Denmans are planning to organize some kind of public forum where residents can share their ideas and vision for the future of the Plaza.