In December, mall security returned to the spotlight when a suicidal teen entered the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., killing eight people and wounding five others before turning the gun on himself. That incident marked the third — and deadliest — major shooting at a U.S. mall in 2007.
The increasing number of high-profile security breaches including mall drive-throughs, teen brawls, and shootings, preliminary indications have placed the retail real estate industry under a microscope. There's been more talk that mall owners could improve on the coordination and execution of evacuation procedures in tandem with their local police departments and other first responders.
Now, some mall owners and operators have made public new efforts to coordinate evacuation and communication procedures between mall personnel and first responders.
In one example, three malls in New Jersey: Paramus Park Mall, Bergen Town Center and Westfield Garden Plaza, owned by General Growth Properties, Vornado Realty Trust and the Westfield Group, respectively, have set up a way to communicate with police and each other directly in the event of an emergency through a public safety system developed by Mutualink, Inc.
The Wallingford, Conn.—based firm provides a technology platform utilizing radio, text, video and telephone to keep mall operators in communication with one another as well as their respective local police departments during any security breach. Managers at the three malls did not return calls seeking comment.
Previously, mall security personnel at those properties and the local police departments had employed radio systems that were incompatible with each other, which would have made it difficult to communicate in the event of an emergency.
That link to timely communications is important, says Steven M. Melley, a Rhinebeck, N.Y.—based lawyer who represents a victim of a mall shooting.
“If you can call in a SWAT team so they could be there within minutes, it might be enough time to prevent an attack,” says Melley.
In another example of a company updating its procedures, Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Real EstateTrust (PREIT), hired the King of Prussia, Pa.—based AlliedBarton Security Services to unify security at its 38 malls and 11 power centers.
PREIT too did not respond to requests for comment.
The security overhaul took approximately two months to complete, according to a spokesman for AlliedBarton. AlliedBarton also oversees security for approximately 100 malls throughout the United States, including properties owned by Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties.
Prior to retaining AlliedBarton, PREIT's security procedures and personnel varied widely from property to property: some had in-house security guards, others contracted with security firms and some others relied entirely on local police. After PREIT systematized its process with AlliedBarton, all of its almost 500 security officers became AlliedBarton employees and now adhere to the same operations procedures manual and incident reporting system. AlliedBarton consults with PREIT's management on a quarterly basis to update and review its policies and procedures.
The cooperation between AlliedBarton and PREIT and the uniformity of the reporting process should result in timely communication and execution of a safe evacuation in the event of a breach in security. Having established procedures, according to a 2006 mall security study by the U.S. Department of Justice, “An Assessment of the Preparedness of Large Retail Malls to Prevent and Respond to Terrorist Attack” renders properties less vulnerable.
Green Letter Day
Transwestern is boasting the benefits of building green with the launch of its client newsletter, Building Sustainability for Our Time. The e-letter, sent to clients that include retail real estate owners and tenants, provides information on a range of topics, including energy and sustainability, LEED certification and green awards and recognition. In its latest issue, the article “Green Buildings — the Tenant's Perspective” covers why it's important to choose a green building and how it reduces operating and labor costs. In “Getting the Word Out…” it also talks of Transwestern's management team efforts to get LEED certification at the Milwaukee Center Office Tower.
Bayer's New Card
Bayer Properties has entered into an agreement with StoreFinancial to offer a gift card program at its regional lifestyle center, the Summit Birmingham in Alabama. The gift cards are available for purchase at the center's guest services office. This program with StoreFinancial replaces a previous relationship Bayer had with another financial services company at the 850,000-square-foot center. The Summit Birmingham, anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Barnes & Noble, along with more than 100 retailers, is the first of Bayer's Summit properties to sign with StoreFinancial.
SEGA, Emaar Partner
Emaar Malls Group, a subsidiary of Emaar Properties has partnered with SEGA Corporation to develop and operate indoor theme parks planned for the Middle East and North Africa region and the subcontinent. The union will give Emaar Malls an array of SEGA entertainment licenses for its malls throughout the region. The first, the Dubai Mall, Emaar's flagship lifestyle center in downtown Burj Dubai, which is set to open later this year. Its partnership with SEGA will bring high-tech attractions to the two-story, 76,000-square-foot gaming complex, that Emaar markets as a world-class experience for visitors. The mall will introduce a full line of SEGA's ride attractions, including an indoor roller coaster, motion ride simulator and one of the largest selections of its games. Emaar is developing two additional malls in Dubai: Souk Al Bahar and the Dubai Marina Mall.
nuBridges to Teens
nuBridgesSecure data encryption enhances customer personal information and gives retailers a new marketing channel to teens. Designed to secure personal data, including credit card numbers and personal identification information (PII), nuBridges Data can also be used by marketers to build customer loyalty among its customer, specifically teens who shop in their stores. The technology capitalizes on the digital generation's buying behavior while complying with increasing federal and state mandates for data security. Retailers engaging the management system can identify select shoppers by their cell number when they enter the store based on their prior buying habits. They can then send coupons and specials via the teens phones as they shop to encourage purchases.