Ma­jor Hous­ton-area malls will re­open to­day

PlazAmer­i­cas, Hous­ton Premium Out­lets, Katy Mills and Gal­le­ria are ready for pa­trons

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - By Paul Takahashi and Nancy Sarnoff STAFF WRIT­ERS

Nine Hous­ton-area malls are plan­ning to re­open in early May af­ter be­ing closed for more than a month to slow the spread of the novel coronaviru­s.

The Gal­le­ria, Hous­ton Premium Out­lets, Katy Mills and PlazAmer­i­cas malls are set to re­open Fri­day while Bay­brook, Deer­brook, First Colony, Wil­low­brook and The Wood­lands malls are set to re­open on Tues­day. Most of the malls will be open Mon­days through Satur­days from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sun­days from noon to 6 p.m. PlazAmer­i­cas Mall will be open daily from noon un­til 7 p.m.

Memo­rial City Mall on Thursday said it is still get­ting ready to re­open and did not dis­close its time frame. In the mean­time, the west Hous­ton mall said some of its restau­rant ten­ants with ex­te­rior en­trances will re­open Fri­day with lim­ited seat­ing, and staff will con­tinue to fa­cil­i­tate curb­side pickup for its re­tail ten­ants.

Malls are start­ing to re­open Fri­day af­ter Gov. Greg Ab­bott an­nounced plans Mon­day to restart the state econ­omy, ap­prov­ing all re­tail­ers to re­open May 1 pro­vided they limit oc­cu­pancy to 25 per­cent of shop­per ca­pac­ity to main­tain so­cial dis­tanc­ing. Malls have been tem­po­rar­ily closed since

mid-March to slow the spread of the virus.

Shoppers who ven­ture out to malls in May will see new health and safety mea­sures aimed at mak­ing vis­i­tors feel safe and com­fort­able while shop­ping and din­ing.

Si­mon Prop­erty Group, which owns the Gal­le­ria, Hous­ton Premium Out­lets and Katy Mills malls, said it will re­quire em­ploy­ees and ven­dors wear face masks, take their tem­per­a­ture be­fore com­ing to work and keep 6 feet of dis­tance from co-work­ers and shoppers when­ever pos­si­ble.

Shoppers also will be en­cour­aged to take their tem­per­a­ture at home or at free tem­per­a­ture-check sta­tions at the mall, which will use no-touch, in­frared ther­mome­ters. Malls will pro­vide free face masks and san­i­tiz­ing wipe pack­ets to shoppers by re­quest, and hand san­i­tiz­ing sta­tions will be placed through­out the malls.

Vis­i­tors will be re­minded to main­tain so­cial dis­tanc­ing through signs, au­dio an­nounce­ments and direc­tions from mall staff. Com­mon area and food court seat­ing will be lim­ited and spaced out, and ev­ery other sink and uri­nal will be taped off in bath­rooms. In ad­di­tion, re­us­able trays, uten­sils and cups will be banned, and play ar­eas, wa­ter foun­tains and stroller and valet sta­tions will be tem­po­rar­ily closed.

Si­mon malls will limit the num­ber of open en­trances while putting in place so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures for any lines that may form out­side the malls. The malls will use ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy to en­sure oc­cu­pancy lev­els do not ex­ceed 1 per­son per 50 square feet.

In ad­di­tion, Si­mon said com­mon ar­eas will be san­i­tized and dis­in­fected through­out the day and ev­ery night, with par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on high-touch ar­eas such as re­strooms, handrails, trash bins, door knobs and seat­ing ar­eas.

Brook­field Prop­er­ties, which owns the five sub­ur­ban Hous­ton malls open­ing Tues­day, said it will have hand san­i­tiz­ing sta­tions, so­cial dis­tanc­ing direc­tions and fre­quent and in­tense clean­ings. Food court seat­ing ar­eas will re­main closed, and restau­rants that choose to re­open will be avail­able for car­ry­out only.

“The safety and well-be­ing of our re­tail part­ners and shoppers is of the ut­most im­por­tance,” Brook­field spokes­woman Rachel Wille said in an email. “As our cen­ters pre­pare for this ‘new nor­mal,’ we are thank­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to re­open our doors and look for­ward to wel­com­ing guests back into our prop­er­ties.”

Baker Katz, the Hous­ton real estate firm that owns PlazAmer­i­cas in Sharp­stown, has post­poned all nonessen­tial main­te­nance to fo­cus on clean­ing and pre­par­ing the mall for cus­tomers Fri­day. Mall em­ploy­ees will be dis­in­fect­ing doors, handrails, benches, chairs, ta­bles and other high touch point items. Hand san­i­tizer sta­tions will be placed through­out the mall and signs will en­cour­age peo­ple to main­tain dis­tance. The food court will have so­cial dis­tanc­ing mark­ers and trays will be re­moved.

Ken­neth Katz, a co­founder of Baker Katz, said the com­mu­nity seemed ex­cited for the mall to re­open but added he be­lieves busi­ness will be slow to ramp back up.

“I don’t think we’re un­der any il­lu­sions peo­ple are go­ing to come out of the gates scream­ing in terms of sales vol­ume,” Katz said.

Brett Coomer / Staff file photo

An­ton Kharoufeh car­ries a curb­side de­liv­ery for Oil & Vine­gar at The Wood­lands Mall last week.

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