By Heidi Simmons

“There is a long tradition of celebrating Independence Day on July fifth. Back in 1779 the fourth of July fell on a Sunday, so the country celebrated on the fifth,” said Councilman Russell Betts, regarding a city sponsored Independence Day event that will take place on July fifth. “So Saturday is the perfect day for the community to come out and celebrate without having to race home on Friday. After all this city has been through, we need time to relax and have some fun.”

Free fireworks and music will fill the air at the corner of Mission Lakes Boulevard and Little Morongo Road. Here, where once a framed and partially stuccoed-building complex languished for years deteriorating in the sun and wind during the financial fiasco, has now been reborn.

After three and a half years and a $3.5 million renovation and reconstruction, the Mission Lakes Market Place has chosen July fifth to celebrate its grand opening.

Sponsored by the city and paid with all private contributions, the professional pyrotechnic show will be the first city fireworks display in years.

“There will be hot dog, hamburger and Mexican food vendors,” said Dr. Suresh Shah, owner of the mall and the new Desert Hot Springs 5 Star Elite Fitness. “We’ll be serving $2 beer and wine at our fitness juice bar. Dollar for soda and water.” Shah said everything is set at a minimum cost and proceeds from all drinks will go to the local Boys and Girls Club.

The ribbon cutting for the shopping center begins at 5:30. The live music starts at 6:30. The fireworks blast off at 9:00 for a 20-minute show. Classic rock and dance band, Gin Piston, will play until 10:00 pm. Local teen talent from Desert Hot Springs Got Talent Contest will perform twice during the night. Everyone attending is encouraged to bring lawn chairs to comfortably enjoy the evening’s celebration.

“The mayor and city council were all on board and extremely helpful and supportive,” said Shah. “I hope to do this event every year. I want to make sure people really enjoy it.”

Dr. Shah is a Palm Desert real estate developer who owns office buildings, malls and apartment complexes in the valley. Other CV malls Shah built are Wall Street West, Morning Star Plaza, Orical Plaza and South West Plaza. He has lived in the desert since 1982 and practiced medicine for 20 years. He was chief anesthesiologist at JFK Memorial Hospital before going into real estate.

Shah owns two 5 Star Elite Fitness centers with a third to be built in Palm Desert (next to the Ruth Chris Steakhouse). Shah is currently going through the approval process. For $150 monthly fee, everything is included: state of the art Italian equipment with high end video monitors, top rated trainers, full use of spa facilities, linen and amenities, all classes like Yoga and Pilates, tanning booths and childcare. All locations have a juice bar. Coffee and tea are free. The DHS fitness center has been open for several months and already has over 500 enrolled members!

Future plans for the charming Spanish style Mission Lakes Market Place include a gas station with mini-mart, two restaurants with outdoor fireside eating, six food court take-out spaces for quick dining with a shaded patio area and fountain. Already signed to the property are two real estate offices, a hair and a nail salon and a video technician from Los Angles who installs high-end audio video equipment.

“Things are coming into place,” said Shah. “We have 20 to 25 suites and the community is very excited to see what businesses are coming.” Shah is enthusiastic when talking about the potential for businesses and what it means to the city. He talks about meeting the community’s needs with jobs, tax revenue and business as though he lived across the street.

The Mission Lakes Market Place, situated in the north-west part of town, has 67,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Shah expects to invest another million dollars in improvements for incoming tenants. When the shopping center is full, over one hundred jobs will be created and $1,000,000 is expected to be generated in tax revenue, which will benefit the city.

“We are excited to celebrate the grand opening of the Mission Lakes shopping center with the owner Dr. Shah,” said Heather Coladonato, Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce President. “And we are happy to celebrate the Independence Day Weekend with the city of Desert Hot Springs.” Desert Hot Springs Mayor Adam Sanchez will attempt to cut the ribbon with really big scissors.

Shah bought the property for $1.5 million in 2010. He has personally overseen the work and appreciates all the support the city has shown. Shah is paying for the fireworks show and expects two to three thousand people to come to the holiday festivities. He made flyers himself and posted them around the city.

“It’s a chance for everybody to take they’re minds off their troubles and just have a good party,” said Betts. “This mall sat as an eye sore for five years. And to have this done now, it is an absolutely beautiful shopping center. We are hoping people will come out and get a good look at it to see what a gem we have.”

This free fireworks event takes place at the Mission Lakes Market Place located at 64949 Mission Lakes Boulevard. Bring your friends and family to celebrate this Independence Day weekend event with the good people of Desert Hot Springs. And don’t forget your lawn chairs.