Going back to the formation of the community site and the addition of the Neighborhood Forum Shades Mountain Plaza has always been a topic of conversation among BP residents. Unfortunately, there has been no communication in the forum from any of the owners of the four-parcel Shades Mountain Plaza to residents. Not much has gone on in the Plaza as regards revitalization, at least not until a few postings showed up on the Neighborhood Forum from the
new owner of parcel #4, John Lemak back in October.
Posting http://bluffparkal.org/bpforum/YaBB.pl?num=1193333652/0 was a survey asking residents what they would most like to see in the Plaza. At the time, members of the forum did not know this was a new owner, but some investigating by Bluffparkal.org brought us to Mr. Lemak and some exciting news!
The left side of SMP is getting a facelift! “The old ’Anything Grows’ out-parcel, parking lot (left side) and building have undergone a lot of behind the scenes improvements,” says owner John Lemak, Shades Mountain LLC.
Lemak has been involved with the shopping center for many years but only recently became an owner; “I worked for the previous owners as the Property Manger. They had the property for sale, and I ended up buying it. That process started in 2006“. But it was the isolated but unfortunate criminal events in 2006 that actually got Lemak thinking about investing in the property. “The community’s response to the robberies inspired me to move forward with investing in the property. I trusted that the Bluff Park residents had pride in their neighborhood and wanted to see it improve.”
New improvements to the parcel include a new, state-of-the art, energy-efficient roof and gutter system on the entire building. Two empty spaces have had some work as well, the center space has new ceiling work and only lacks for a new tenant to pick out their choice of paint and flooring to be able to move in. The end space, with the drive-thru, was completely gutted and redone into a “white box”. A new HVAC, electrical work, ceiling and lighting systems have also been installed.
To focus on the cosmetic issues of the parcel, Lemak hired LBL Builders to renovate the shopping center. “ They are enthusiastic about the opportunity of creating an improved center for the community,” Lemak says. The gray awning is being remodeled and painted, as well as the underside of the awning. Sides and back of the building are also being repainted. The sidewalk is being cleaned and old signs are being taken down.
The parking lot, which also has been a big topic on the forum, now has the potholes and low areas fixed. It has been sealed and re-striped too. “The parking lot has become a heavily driven road into the adjacent neighborhood. Although this is good for the center, the speed at which people are driving creates a dangerous situation. The new striping will form a lane which will direct traffic over (not around) the speed bumps,” Lemak says. The out parcel (where Anything Grows used to be) is being cleared and prepared for a new tenant.
Lemak says his goal for the plaza is to create a place that the community enjoys, a place that is appealing and offers the services that residents want and need. He utilized the forum back in October to survey the community about what shops they wanted to see in the empty spaces. “It was overwhelmingly Food & Beverage! From a Mexican restaurant, to a sports bar or coffee shop, or even a Moe’s, Rolly Polly or Subway,” Lemak says. “ I would like to see someone open a dine-in restaurant or grill with TVs and a patio. There have been a lot of requests for a coffee shop. There are so many homes surrounding the center, I would just like to have some place for everyone to go meet and
The All For One and One For Everyone annual community party also sparked interest with Lemak, “I like the idea of a nice event at the center for families and friends with vendor booths, food and music. The Plaza could help attract new sponsors and support. I’ve also enlisted the business owners at SMP to be more aware/vigilant about what is going on at the center.”
In our interview when asked if there was anything else he would like to add, Mr. Lemak wanted to let the community know, “That brings up an important point; there is a balancing act when it comes to filling the vacancies. You will probably find one or two vacancies in some of the retail buildings in Bluff Park. The owners of these buildings are investing
money to improve and market the properties because we believe in the area and want to see it continue to thrive. The market and community does influence the process. For example: I may be trying as hard as I can to get a restaurant at the center and there is just no interest, but, at the same time, there is a non-restaurant business knocking down my door to get into the space. As an owner, you want to be selective about the businesses that occupy your building, but you do not want spaces to remain vacant indefinitely.
If I am in a restaurant, shop or business that I really like, I talk to them about Bluff Park and about expanding or relocating to Shades Mountain Plaza. Be proactive.”