The Lakewood Shopping Center should look as good as new by March, if all goes according to schedule.

Construction began recently on the site in the 6300 block of Gaston, where five storefronts were destroyed by an arson fire in June.

Depending on weather conditions during the winter, the exterior, roof and floors of the building will be finished by early March, says Tim Kirk, vice president of Texas Commercial Properties.

When work is completed, the storefronts will be the same size as they were originally, and parking is not expected to change, Kirk says.

The City’s investigation into the cause of the late-night fire is ongoing. One of the five storefronts destroyed by the blaze was the landmark circular entry and conical roof at the front of the Lakewood Lighthouse Seafood Grill (formerly Harrell’s Pharmacy). Since the fire, three of the displaced businesses have reopened at other locations.

Paperbacks Plus plans to reopen at the reconstructed shopping center. Other tenants are being sought, Kirk says.

Reconstruction plans, which have been approved by the City, call for restoring the exterior of the neighborhood landmark to its original appearance, Kirk says. As with the original structure, the façade will be constructed of masonry, marble, brick and other materials. The interiors likely will be different, depending on the desires of the tenants, he says.

Mar-Bild Inc. of Dallas, which has experience building strip shopping centers, has been hired to rebuild the row of shops, Kirk says.

The first construction work visible to passers-by began in November, when workers used heavy equipment to dig out the old concrete foundation and about five feet of soil below it. The old dirt was replaced with a special fill soil that meets current building codes, Kirk says.

Plans called for drilling new foundation piers last month. Work on a new concrete slab floor was to begin by early January, says Scott Stone of Stone Lowery Architects, the Dallas firm hired to design the reconstruction.

The steel structural framework of the walls and roof should go up in mid-January, he says.

Working on a small site along a major street and near a busy intersection will require contractors to be particularly careful with scheduling, Kirk says. Large, cumbersome construction vehicles and machinery will be moved during off-peak hours when possible, and contractors hope to do some work on weekends, Kirk says.

“We’re trying to schedule construction in such a way that we create a minimum amount of disruption to surrounding streets,” Kirk says.

Finish work on interior spaces has not been scheduled, but some construction could begin before March, depending on how quickly the exterior work is completed by contractors and approved by City inspectors, Kirk says.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.