Coloradans Looking For A Typical Mall Experience Will Have To Wait

Coronavirus Town Center mall in Aurora was still open
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Park Meadows mall in the south metro was still open, but most stores there were closed on Friday March 20, 2020 during the coronavirus outbreak.

As the state transitions to safer-at-home, there’s still a lot of questions up in the air for the future of shopping malls.

The stay-at-home lifted last week and indoor malls were preparing to open. But on Monday, Gov. Jared Polis amended the state’s safer-at-home measures for retail. Indoor malls were specifically excluded from reopening.

“Part of safer-at-home business best practices is to continue to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, maintain 6-foot distancing when possible, and discourage shared spaces which would be difficult to do in an indoor mall,” the state said in a statement to CPR News.

The state also said it cannot say when enclosed malls will be able to open.

Mesa Mall in Grand Junction opened briefly on Monday before shutting its doors again Tuesday because of the order. Park Meadows Mall in Lone Tree was supposed to open on Monday but now doesn't plan to open till May 27.

But even when malls do completely open, it won’t be the same experience as before COVID-19.

The Outlets at Castle Rock are open because it’s not an enclosed mall, and Douglas County -- where the outlets are located -- was one of the first counties in the state to transition to safer-at-home guidelines after the state’s stay-at-home lifted in April. Most of the stores within the mall are operating but some retailers are only doing business curbside while others are allowing people to shop in-person. But the amount of people within a store is constantly regulated to make sure there are no more than 10 people grouped together. All of the staff has to wear masks and employees get their temperatures taken daily before they begin their shift. All walkways are one-way and the food court is closed.

“I don’t have an end in sight,” marketing director for the Outlets Jen Simpson said. “We want to make sure that we don’t pull away from these precautions too early, and they seem to be working well.”

Simpson said that although the stores are getting business, not a lot of people are doing much shopping right now.

Bill Knarre is the vice president of management for Taubman, the retail company that owns Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver. The mall is completely closed for now, but he said some of the retailers are trying to begin curbside services this weekend. He said although he’s not sure when malls will be fully functioning again, he doesn’t think it’ll go away.

“The mall will remain as a gathering space,” he said. “It’s the one thing we can offer that many can’t. People celebrate milestones at the mall. They buy their prom dress, they go on a spending spree after they just got their new job, and they meet friends for dinner. That environment will always exist and there will always be a demand for that.”

Knarre said that when the mall does open up, common areas like food courts will still be closed and employees will have to wear masks. All events are canceled until July, and all gathering areas will be closed indefinitely.

Chapel Hills Mall in Colorado Springs is closed but some retailers are also doing curbside pickup and will continue to do so until it’s safe to open their doors.

“Retail is still relevant, it’s just going to look a bit different as we enter this new normal,” Director of Operations Jelson Santos said.