Hail-damaged Colorado Mills unlikely to reopen for 6 months, could be a $2 million hit to Lakewood tax income

LAKEWOOD — The Colorado Mills shopping mall, badly damaged by hail, will probably not be fully reopened for six months, and that has city officials worried about sales tax collections and the fate of thousands of workers.

The impact could be a $2 million hit in sales tax collections after the regional shopping mall was badly damaged last week during a particularly fearsome hailstorm.

Lakewood finance director Larry Dorr told The Denver Post Wednesday that the city gets an average of $350,000 per month in sales tax from the mall, not counting proceeds from the Super Target and several other adjacent businesses that are still operating at the site.

With the reopening of the 1.1 million-square-foot mall not likely to occur until November — a timeline a city spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday — Lakewood could see a loss of $2.1 million over the next half-year. That amount represents about 6 percent of the $36 million in total sales tax revenue the city typically receives in a six-month period.

“That won’t feel good, and it’s meaningful,” Dorr said.

But he noted that Lakewood has more than $20 million in reserves that will help maintain critical services — like police protection and street repair — at budgeted levels. What might get shorted, he said, are less core city services, like park bench replacement and tennis court resurfacing.

What is more concerning to some civic leaders in Lakewood are the thousands of workers at the mall who suddenly find themselves with nowhere to work.

“Our first priority is, how do we get these folks back online and working again?” said Mayor Adam Paul. “What about all the lost jobs, and where do all the people go?”

Morgan McCoy, store manager at Aldo Shoes, said she is sending her eight employees to the company’s other stores in the metro area while workers rehabilitate her store, which she said had large pools of water on the floor just minutes after a cascade of giant hailstones slammed into the mall’s roof on the afternoon of May 8.

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  • “It was raining in my store,” McCoy said. “It was a nightmare.”

    She said 50 percent of inventory was ruined by water damage, and the store had just opened two weeks ago.

    On the other end of the longevity scale, Gallery Plus has been in Colorado Mills for the 15 years the mall has been in operation. Owner Dalal Maliki, who made his way inside the mall Wednesday to meet with an insurance adjuster, called the impact to his art and picture frame store a “big hit.”

    He fears that he lost up to $300,000 in inventory.

    “It’s tough for everybody,” Maliki said.

    Colorado Mills was a buzz of activity Wednesday as countless workers rolled carts of damaged product out the mall’s numerous entrances. Dozens of trucks belonging to restoration and water damage contractors were stationed all around the mall, as dumpsters filled up with water-logged garbage.

    Giant stacks of still-wrapped roofing insulation occupied dozens of spaces in the mall’s vast parking areas, awaiting installation.

    Numerous calls and emails to Simon Property Group and its public relations firm went unanswered Wednesday, but Lakewood spokeswoman Stacie Oulton said the city had also received a letter the giant mall operator had sent to its Colorado Mills tenants saying that a full reopening of the facility wasn’t expected until November.

    Jon Schallert, a Longmont-based retail analyst, said he worried most about the ability of independent retailers to survive such a long shutdown. The national chains at the mall would probably be able to weather the interruption, he said, given their insurance policies and sheer size.

    “Some of the larger companies might be able to put their employees in other stores,” he said. “If it’s a chain, this is something they can withstand.”

    Schallert said one of the few mitigating factors in the whole disaster is the fact the hailstorm occurred early enough in the year. Had the damage occurred just a few months out from the lucrative Christmas shopping season, losses would have been far more substantial.

    “If the mall opens by mid-November, the stores may be able to make up a lot of the loss,” he said.

    Simon should also use the disaster as an opportunity in its rebuilding effort to update the property so that shoppers will have a compelling reason to return to the mall at 14500 W. Colfax Ave. when it opens its doors again, Schallert said.

    But in the meantime, businesses at Colorado Mills are scrambling to figure out a plan for the rest of 2017. Jeff Cleveland makes hand-crafted furniture for his store, Cleveland Creek Lodge & Log Furniture, which has been at the mall for 10 years.

    He estimates he lost $250,000 in inventory to the storm that he said made it feel “like there was no roof in the mall.”

    Cleveland has been talking to Flatiron Crossing Mall and Southwest Plaza to see if they have a space he can occupy while Colorado Mills is overhauled. But for what he sells, he said, the mall in Lakewood is where he wants to be.

    “We’re going to definitely try to make it work and come back,” Cleveland said.

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