Simon, URW Among Latest to Temporarily Close Retail Centers Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

by Alex Tostado

Indianapolis and Los Angeles — Simon Property Group and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) have announced they will temporarily close their respective shopping centers across the United States amid the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. Simon (NYSE: SPG) closed all of its U.S. properties at 7 p.m. local time Wednesday. URW will close its properties starting today.

URW, which is headquartered in Paris and has offices in Los Angeles and New York City, operates 47 properties in the U.S. Due to European governments implementing crowd bans, URW began shuttering centers in France, Spain, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia on March 16.

In a corresponding move, the company began actively reducing non-staff expenses and deferring non-essential capital expenditure. Unless instructed otherwise by local authorities, URW will reopen its properties March 29.

URW says “essential” retailers will remain open. Essential stores are typically defined as grocery stores, pharmacies, convenient stores, etc.

“We have not made this decision lightly and believe this is in the best interest of protecting our various stakeholders. We look forward to reopening these centers in the very near future,” says Jean-Marie Tritant, U.S. President of URW. “In the meantime, we are doing everything possible to make sure that ‘essential’ retail outlets remain accessible.”

Indianapolis-based Simon said it will reopen March 29. According to its website, Simon owns and operates 237 properties in the U.S.

“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” says David Simon, chairman, CEO and president of Simon.

On Tuesday, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) wrote a letter requesting financial aid from the federal government in the wake of retail centers closing nationwide. The letter was addressed to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin. It was not immediately clear if either Simon or URW were associated with the letter.

Simon’s stock price closed Wednesday at $44.66 per share, down from $173.40 per share March 19, 2019, a 74 percent drop. Simon’s stock price stood at $137.01 one month ago. URW trades on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange.

Taubman Centers to close centers until March 29

Also in response to COVID-19 and in abiding by local, state and federal authorities, Taubman Centers Inc. announced it will close 15 properties in the United States beginning at the end of business hours today. The properties are slated to reopen March 29 unless otherwise noted by authorities.

The Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based company released a full list of the effected centers, which include: Beverly Center in Los Angeles, Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord and The Gardens on El Paseo in Palm Desert, California; Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver; Stamford Town Center in Stamford and Westfarms Mall in West Hartford, Connecticut; Dolphin Mall in Miami, International Plaza in Tampa and The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota, Florida; Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills and Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, Michigan; The Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, New Jersey; The Mall at Green Hills in Nashville, Tennessee; City Creek Center in Salt Lake City; and Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia.

“After numerous discussions with state and local officials, we will temporarily cease operations in all but two centers this evening,” said Robert Taubman, chairman, president and CEO of Taubman Centers. “We are clearly in unprecedented times and this is right decision for our shoppers, retailers, employees and these communities.”

Tenants at Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri and International Market Place in Waikiki, Hawaii will continue to operate.

— Alex Tostado

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