Buckhead’s Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls will reopen May 1 as the coronavirus pandemic continues, owner Simon Property Group has confirmed.

The malls have been closed since March 18. Leaked news of the reopening earlier this week generated controversy about public health impacts, including from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who called it “too soon.” On April 30, Simon announced various safety measures for the reopening and arranged for a publicity firm to tightly control media coverage of the first day.

One of the monument signs at the Lenox Square mall. (File)

Along with Lenox Square at 3393 Peachtree Road and Phipps Plaza at 3500 Peachtree, Simon is reopening many other malls around Georgia and the U.S. between May 1 and 4. All will have the same safety protocols, which involves changing some of the furnishings, monitoring occupancy, and some personal restrictions that largely applying only to mall employees, with stores and customers only “encouraged” or “recommended” to do likewise. The protocols include the following:

  • Mall employees will be screened for fever temperatures according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines; will be required to wear masks; and will be “encouraged” to maintain social distancing. For tenants, such measures are “recommended.” Employees will be urged to self-monitor for illness as well.
  • Customers are “encouraged” to self-monitor for sickness and to listen to social distancing tips that will be delivered by mall employees, security officers and public address system messages. They are “encouraged” to wear masks and to frequently wash their hands. The malls will provide free masks, sanitizer wipes and temperature testing to any customer who asks.
  • The malls will restrict the number of entrances and use “existing traffic measurement technologies” to keep occupancy under 1 person per 50 square feet.
  •  Tenants “should” actively tell customers to maintain social distancing.
  • The malls will spread out seating, including in the food court, and will not serve food with reusable containers or utensils.
  • In restrooms, every other sink and urinal will be taped off to maintain social distancing.
  • The malls will be disinfected nightly and tenants should do the same in their stores. To allow for the cleaning, the malls’ hours will be limited: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday noon-6 p.m.

    The Phipps Plaza mall as seen in a Google Maps image.

Lividini & Co., a New York publicity firm, is arranging media coverage of Lenox Square’s reopening on the morning of May 1. According to a press invitation, the event will involve Robin Suggs, the manager of both Buckhead malls, guiding a tour of Lenox Square’s “enhanced safety protocols.”

The event limits reporters to photos and “b-roll” — background video footage — only, with no live coverage allowed. Suggs will be available for interviews only by phone or email afterward, not during the event, and media will be barred from interview management or customers on-site at all. “All media must be escorted on property at all times,” the invitation says.

An executive with the publicity firm did not answer a question about the reason for those restrictions on media coverage.

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John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.