Park Meadows reopened in late May as the first indoor mall in Colorado to do so since the start of widespread shutdowns in March.
While no scientific data is available yet, Park Meadows officials say customers have been more compliant with wearing a mask in the days since Gov. Jared Polis' mask order. On the afternoon of July 17, the first effective date of Polis' order, every person seen inside the mall was wearing a mask except for customers at the dining hall tables, spaced out and limited in capacity.
Business Improvement District Director Whitney Miller said the mall has relied on “self-policing” when it comes to masks.
“It's really hard to, as a business or an individual, enforce something that tightly when it's been required by another entity,” Miller said. “We've done our best to encourage it.”
Miller said almost all retail chains required masks through their corporate offices.
“That helped us out in the enforcement factor because there didn't need to be a lot of enforcement,” Miller said. Instead, she said, people have turned to education. All security guards at the mall carry disposable masks and will hand them out to people who did not bring one. “It's not people willfully not going in without a mask, it's more like 'I left it on my tray and threw it away with my lunch on accident.'”
The one thing Park Meadows did not want was to reopen and then close again, Miller said.
“Our number one priority has always been for the safety and health of our customers, employees and our tenants, which is critical to us,” Miller said. “We really worked to ensure consistent protocols and practices across the board.”
Miller said mask compliance hovered around 80% to 85% prior to security enforcement. Most of the time, Miller said, people would forget to re-mask after eating or say they left a mask in their car.
“There was a month to a month-and-a-half before we even opened that was straight-up just prep to open the doors. New protocols, new training for people. We worked really closely with the Lone Tree Police, with the Lone Tree City Council and the staff at the city and Tri-County Health (Department) to establish the best protocols to go about this,” Miller said.
Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet said in an interview in early July that the city is working to keep businesses open and avoid shutdowns.
Park Meadows sees itself as setting the standard for other malls in the area. Some feared Park Meadows and similar malls would become hot spots for infection. So far, according to available data from the Tri-County Health Department and Park Meadows officials, there is no more-significant risk at the mall than anywhere else.
Much of the mall's soft seating has been removed. Sanitation stations are becoming commonplace everywhere. Several stores like Lululemon and Forever 21 had lines out the door due to a capacity limit July 17. The mall seemed to have a population similar to a Friday afternoon in non-pandemic times.
Miller said some of the changes they've had to make due to the pandemic will stick around. The mall is exploring options to have permanent infrastructure for curbside pickup for stores and restaurants at The Vistas, the southwest part of the mall. Up the street from The Vistas along Park Meadows Center Drive is a 50-foot metal frame for a movie screen. The mall has been hosting drive-in movie nights to fill the void of indoor movie theaters. To learn more, visit ParkMeadows.com/events.
“Now that we've been open for about five to six weeks,” Miller said,we've gotten to see kind of where the trends were going.”
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