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minutes of hail on May 8, 2017
mall employees displaced by the mall closure
million less sales tax revenue from Colorado Mills last year
percent average drop in sales tax during the interior mall closure, May-November
percent lower sales tax revenue, November to January
The mall’s January sales tax revenue
It’s been almost a year since the hail storm that closed the Colorado Mills mall for six months and Brenda Cleary, director of marketing and business development at the mall, still isn’t entirely sure how to refer to the storm and its aftermath.
“Do I call it the event? The storm?” she wondered, as she walked through the mall, which reopened on Nov. 21. “Whatever it was, it’s been a journey getting back to here.”
In a little over a month, it will have been a year since the May 8 hailstorm ripped open roofs and flooded stores, leaving millions of dollars in damages and lost livelihoods in its wake and siphoning nearly $3 million in sales tax revenue from Lakewood city coffers.
About 100 of the mall’s, 14500 W. Colfax Ave., 160 stores opened to customers during Thanksgiving week, and in the months since its reopening, there’s been a steady stream of reopenings, particularly in the first six weeks following Thanksgiving, Cleary said.
“Some businesses, like Bath and Body and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret, set up temporary locations to do business out of while their permanent locations are being finished,” Cleary explained. “We still have businesses opening and will for a while. We’re hoping to be closer to 100 percent reopened by the fall.”
MORE: Colorado Mills reopens in time for holidays.
More than 155 retailers and eateries are now open in the mall, with new businesses like restaurant Los Chingones filling in some of the spaces left by businesses that decided not to return. A full mall would have occupancy closer to 200 retailers and restaurants.
“We are so grateful to our tenants for working with us through this process. I hear a lot of optimism from them,” Cleary said. “Retailers are of course eager to return to our pre-storm occupancy, which we expect to achieve in the coming months.”
Not all retailers are happy about the missing businesses. The owner of the Dairy Queen and Orange Julius located in the mall is suing Simon Property Group, the company that owns the mall, in Jefferson County District Court for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and constructive eviction.
The complaint, filed by attorney Milnor Senior, states the Dairy Queen owner shouldn’t have to pay for resources that went unused — like electricity and trash — while the mall was closed. The owner also wants to get out their lease.
Senior did not respond to request for comment, and a representative from Simon said the company has no comment on pending litigation.
But others like Roxanne Maine, manager at Maurices women’s clothing store, is excited about the mall be reopened, and the future of business at the mall.
“We were able to reopen in November with a lot of other retailers, and that really helped,” Maine said. “We hear from so many customers in person and on the phone that they’re so excited we’re back.”
Individual businesses and the mall as a whole have been using advertising and social media posts to bring attention to the fact the mall is reopen and more tenants are continuing to open.
“Foot traffic is good, and we see lots of returning and new shoppers with bags in-hand, which is always a good sign,” Cleary said. “We expect a higher volume as the year progresses and more retailers open.”
While there are a lot of steps being taken to get the mall back to pre-storm status, work is still ongoing. Simon recently installed all-new food court furniture, and Cleary anticipates completing the installation of 117,000 square feet of new floors by mid-April.
And one of the first things construction workers tackled was the roof, with an eye on using the best technology to prevent this kind of situation again. The storm battered and breached the roof and shattered skylights. Rain poured into the mall, causing considerable water damage to common areas, retailers and their stocks.
“No one could have predicted the hailstorm and subsequent rain and snow that befell the center in May 2017,” Cleary said. “The new roof is the size of 21 NFL football fields and it incorporates state-of-the-art materials and new technologies that are designed to withstand the weather.”
In the long months since the storm, there have been a lot of lessons learned by everyone who works at the mall. One of the biggest lessons learned was the importance of communication.
“As the storm was hitting, the importance of communication was highlighted to the fullest level. While we plan and prepare for serious events all year round, our teams and tenants were faced with making the best safety, personal, and business decision they could in an extremely short timeframe” Cleary said. “It was inspiring to experience how supportive our shoppers and community were throughout the closure, and just how eager they were to have their mall open again.”
A representative from Simon said it could not release a cost for reconstruction because the process is still ongoing, but estimates it will be in the “multi-millions.”
The mall closure has cost the city about $300,000 to $350,000 a month in tax revenue, said Larry Dorr, Lakewood’s finance director. During Lakewood’s budget process in September and October, Dorr spoke about the closure’s effect on the city’s finances.
Taxes from mall sales contributed about 6 percent of Lakewood’s general fund in 2016, which pays for everything from police to community resources, Dorr said. In 2016 the mall generated about $7.12 million in sales taxes to the general fund.
“Right now, it feels premature to think of this as a past event. It’s still happening,” Dorr said. “We’ll have to wait until the holiday season to get a better sense of what the status of the mall really looks like.”
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