While several enclosed shopping malls and well-known retailers nationwide have closed temporarily in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Chapel Hills and Citadel malls in Colorado Springs remain open — though at reduced hours.
The malls are operating from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, slightly shorter than their regular schedule of 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The malls’ Sunday hours of 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. remained unchanged.
Although retailers have shuttered over the next roughly two weeks in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus, some businesses at Chapel Hills and The Citadel don’t want the malls to close, New York owners and operators Namdar Realty Group and Mason Asset Management said via email.
“There are some smaller businesses that have requested the doors stay open — both as a place for community members to gather any supplies they might need and to ensure that valuable sources of income for community members are not disrupted in an already uncertain time,” according to the companies.
Namdar and Mason, however, continue to monitor the situation and will follow state of Colorado guidelines and recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The malls have ramped up cleaning efforts throughout common area, and have closed mall-operated entertainment such as children’s play areas and carousels, according to the companies. Food court seating areas also are closed. The malls’ reduced hours provide more time for cleaning.
Still, several mall anchors and smaller stores have closed on their own, including Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Dick’s Sporting Goods, H&M, Claire’s, Victoria’s Secret, Sunglass Hut, Bath & Body Works, Foot Locker and Spencer’s.
Nonmall stores in Colorado Springs that have temporarily closed include Apple, Old Navy, REI, Eddie Bauer, Jos. A. Bank, Men’s Wearhouse and Ulta Beauty. Kohl’s has reduced its shopping hours to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The temporary closure of stores, restaurants and service-oriented businesses nationwide creates another round of challenges for mall and shopping center owners.
While the economy has soared the last several years, malls and shopping centers still have watched brick-and-mortar retailers shut their doors or downsize in the wake of changing consumer habits and competition from Amazon and other online rivals. Chapel Hills, for example, lost a major anchor when Sears closed its two Colorado Springs stores in March 2019.
Now, not only are malls and stores proactively closing their doors in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus, but many consumers must decide whether it’s worth the risk to shop in close quarters. Some will, but will observe social distance recommendations; others likely will avoid malls and stores.
“I would hope that anybody could weather two or three weeks,” said Mark Useman, a retail specialist and executive managing director at brokerage Colorado Springs Commercial. “It’s a question of whether it’s going to be that or two months.”
Knowing that “everybody will take a hit from this,” shopping center owners and landlords have begun to discuss what steps the commercial real estate industry will need to take once conditions improve, Useman said.
If retailers can’t pay their rent when they reopen because of lost sales, will building owners and landlords grant them concessions or defer payments? Will lenders assist building owners, landlords and property managers who aren’t getting payments from their tenants? And will the federal government provide assistance programs for everyone?
Decisions on the part of landlords, building owners and lenders will be made on a case-by-case basis, Useman predicted.
“This is really a trickle-up effect,” he said. “It’s going to affect everybody up the chain or down the chain.”
Dan Rodriguez, a vice president and retail specialist with the Springs office of national real estate firm CBRE, said malls and other shopping centers will absorb losses but will survive.
Some landlords he’s talked with have indicated they’re willing to help their tenants, although no decisions have been made or assistance programs put in place, Rodriguez said. In any case, it’s much easier to keep an existing tenant than to backfill an empty space, he said.
“The consensus is that certainly we’d much rather work with our tenants and give them rent relief or help them, help them figure this out, rather than lose them,” Rodriguez said. “Landlords and owners have a much bigger incentive to work with their tenants and help them get through this time rather than demand that the rent is due and damn the consequences.
“The underlying theme here is, we’re going to have to work together,” he said.