PLATTSBURGH — Champlain Centre will unlock its doors this Friday, opening the mall's interior for business once again.
"I'm extremely pleased that they can meet the public safety expectations and allow for our local businesses to reopen to their much-valued customers," Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman told The Press-Republican.
"It's really good. It's been a long road for them."
Tenants of the indoor shopping center were left shuttered under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's PAUSE order first issued around St. Patrick's Day.
While the North Country's standalone retailers and mall shops with their own entrances could reopen under the phases of New York Forward, indoor shopping centers were kept shut, even under the reopening plan's final phase.
Local officials and business owners had begged the state for relief, asking that malls get cleared for business. Many tenants of Champlain Centre had said their local operations would not survive the closure much longer.
AIR SYSTEM WOES
When pushed for an explanation on the continued shutdown, state officials had pointed to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, systems of indoor shopping centers.
The worry was that system quality would not be up to par, allowing for easier COVID-19 travel.
Pyramid Management Group, who manages Champlain Centre and other shopping malls across the state, had issued a statement, saying their systems were no more likely to spread the virus than those of big box stores that had either already reopened or were never closed due to the pandemic.
Gov. Cuomo issued guidance this week, telling malls what was necessary for their reopenings, which could happen no sooner than Friday, July 10.
The first requirement was having quality air filters with a maximum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, rating of no less than 11.
At his press conference Wednesday, the governor explained that HVAC systems were rated by MERV and said, "there are air filtration systems that can take COVID out of the air."
He later said MERV-13 was the best filter able to do so, but noted some HVAC systems weren't compatible with it. That in mind, the governor said filters rated MERV-11 through MERV-13 would be acceptable.
Malls were also required to increase outdoor air, reduce air circulation, have longer system run times and perform frequent filter checks.
'WE ARE ECSTATIC'
When asked by The Press-Republican what filter rating Pyramid Management Group has at its properties, including Champlain Centre, the group did not respond, but said, via statement, that it was looking forward to reopening several of its locations this Friday.
"The governor’s announcement was great news for Pyramid’s tenants, their employees, our own employees and all of the people living in the communities where our properties are located," the statement says. "With proper precautions in place and health and safety a top priority, we look forward to restoring our centers to their dominant positions as the economic drivers of their respective regions.
"We are ecstatic to welcome them back safely and responsibly to our properties, and pledge to continue to do our part moving forward."
FIGHT FOR MORE
North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas said the recent announcement was "very welcome."
"This is another positive step in the reopening process and is crucial for the small businesses in the mall who have been kept closed for added weeks while other businesses reopened," Douglas says in a statement.
"It will also mean restored employment for hundreds of people employed by the many closed businesses in the mall."
The chamber's statement also said it would continue to advocate for the finalization and release of reopening guidelines for those types of operations still awaiting reopening approval, like gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys.
While Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) was also pleased to hear the news, calling it "great news" for the local mall, he agreed with the chamber, thinking more needed to be done to revitalize the economy.
"I will continue to fight for more businesses," he says in a statement, "such as health and fitness centers and bowling alleys to reopen."
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