Mall safety under question

Posted On Thursday, 07 June 2007 02:00 Published by
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Many shopping malls are potential disaster traps as managers and owners have allowed safety standards to drop to "atrocious" levels, industry insiders say
  • Owners and managers are not maintaining safety measures in spite of booming rental growth.
  • Cut-throat competition between property managers has reduced fees from 5% a decade ago to less than 1%. The latest tender - for a Johannesburg southern suburb shopping centre - was won on a management fee of 0,6%.

Owners ignore safety of building occupants
They're saving money by breaking the law

"That fee has to be the gross profit of the manager, so little serious management is done beyond collecting rents and finding tenants for extra commission," says one property owner who wishes to remain anonymous.

"The battle for business that started about a decade ago is behind the atrocious fall in management and safety standards," says George Skinner, executive director of the SA Council of Shopping Centres. "It's very worrying."

A quick inspection of Rosebank's retail malls by the FM and risk assessor Gert Potgieter showed danger to be lurking around almost every corner. The Zone, owned and managed by Old Mutual, revealed overloaded electrical plugs and makeshift electrical wiring at restaurant Primi Piatti. "That shows sub standard management," says Potgieter, who is also CEO of MHD management services.

The centre's main electrical distribution board was unlocked. "Robbers could turn off the electricity and have a field day, or a child could get electrocuted," notes Potgieter.

The Firs, owned and managed by Investec property group, seems to have the least problems. "But this inspection is cursory," warns Potgieter. "There are many back areas we haven't seen." A ramp leading from Cradock Avenue to The Firs has slippery tiles and, as in other shopping centres, the toilets are located in a secluded corridor with no apparent security provision. "An ideal place for assaults, rapes, pick-pocketing and child molesting," says Potgieter.

A fire extinguisher at Mr Price in the Rosebank Mall was due for service in March 2005, a clear sign of substandard management, as is the litter in a passage next to the toilets. There is no apparent secured access to Nedbank. A security guard says cash-in-transit vans park in the public parking and the cash guards walk through the mall. There are poor expansion joints in the floor and cracked tiles, posing a danger to shoppers.

Galleria, owned by Jonathan Broll, head of SA's biggest property manager, is downright dangerous. Fire escapes on one parking level are locked with a chain, a fire sprinkler leaks, fire hoses hang loose, fire extinguishers were due to be serviced in August 2005 while others are missing.

There were also few security guards visible. There are no signs describing emergency procedures to shoppers.

"I've never come across a shopping centre with first-aid facilities," Potgieter says. He says these conditions are typical of most shopping malls and capture the general attitude of most developers, designers, owners, managers and inspectors.

Publisher: Financial Mail
Source: Financial Mail

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