11/04/11 — Repairs continue on mall

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Repairs continue on mall

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on November 4, 2011 1:46 PM

Despite a collapse of Berkeley Mall's roof near the Belk mall entrance in late August due to Hurricane Irene, mall Manager Jan Luttrell said holiday shopping should go off without a hitch this season as shoppers begin making out their gift lists.

Rains have delayed the overall repairs to the roof, but the stores in the mall are all in operation and, except for two or three stores near the collapse, Mrs. Luttrell says it has been all systems go at the mall ever since it reopened the week after the hurricane.

"We've been backed up a couple of days because of the rain," she said, adding that original forecasts predicted the steel replacement would conclude today. "We're expecting the steel to be done next Tuesday. That will replace the steel and make us water tight."

Following that, the roofing company will begin its work to reinstall the roof. Assuring that the structure isn't leaking is important because that will permit the engineers who handle electricity, the sprinkler system and the chilled water line to begin their work, which should be the last jobs completed before the mall is completely repaired.

Mrs. Luttrell said there hasn't been too much of a burden on the stores in the mall, mostly due to the transparency of the operation.

"Our sales have held so steady and we've been in pretty good communication with the construction workers, engineers and stores," she said, although there had been concerns expressed by temporary seasonal tenants. "They're from out of the area and heard rumors and were wondering if we are open -- and we certainly are."

In fact, she said the biggest issue for the mall was dispelling rumors in the weeks following the hurricane.

"Our biggest hurdle was just delivering facts instead of rumors," she said, adding some callers to the mall claimed to have heard the mall had been condemned -- something that was never close to being considered.

Although she doesn't have cumulative estimates on how much revenue was lost during the mall's nearly week-long closure, she said there certainly was a loss in sales when the mall was forced to close its doors to patrons, although trends show the stores are likely to recover what they lost that week.

"We were trending up about 7 percent heading into the hurricane so we're hoping to recover that week and then some (during the holiday season)," she said.

The only changes at the mall this shopping season, she said, will be in locations. Gamestop, Daughtry Jewelers and Bath and Body Works have all relocated within the mall and are operating as usual, she said.

But with the mall atrium typically serving as Santa's workshop, there will need to be some shifts made when he comes to town this year. Santa will begin greeting children at the mall Nov. 19, but won't be in front of Belk since repairs will still be happening nearby.

Santa's location in the mall will be determined later this month, but Mrs. Luttrell said that, overall, she feels the mall is in a great position for both businesses and patrons this holiday season.