Plaza las Américas

San Juan-based Plaza las Américas is the largest shopping center in the Caribbean. >Courtesy

One of the sectors most economically disrupted by the unprecedented closure measures in Puerto Rico is that of shopping centers, which are already planning the measures they will take to receive their customers once the lockdown cis lifted.

The will try to mitigate the multimillion-dollar impact—which no shopping center has wanted to project because it is unknown how long the commercial closure will last—by anticipating the opening date with an action plan that provides security to employees and customers, while allowing them to reintegrate into the economy.

"This is an unforeseen situation. Adjustments and expenses have had to be made to keep essentials and open tenants, like banks and restaurants, to keep operating. Some in the food court are also making takeaway orders with Uva and Uber Eats," explained Adolfo "Tito" González, president of Empresas Caparra, regarding the businesses and offices in San Patricio Plaza, San Patricio Village, and Galería San Patricio.

The company, which has made payment agreements with its tenants individually, is already planning, along with the other shopping centers on the island, a strict protocol to manage the entrance of customers when they open to the public, such as controls at the entrance and the number of people in the stores and aisles, as well as shorter hours.

"In restaurants, the density and distance between people will have to be reduced. We are also preparing ourselves with the appropriate materials such as hand sanitizer and masks. We are looking for best practices from other countries and seeing how we incorporate them by the time the lockdown is lifted. We want to be ready to facilitate the return to normality," González said, adding that at first the operation will be different to what people were used to before the pandemic.

The administration of Plaza Las Américas in San Juan and Plaza del Caribe in Ponce joined other shopping centers in efforts to maintain their physical structures in good shape and ready to receive consumers.

"In Plaza Las Américas, FirstBank, P.F. Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory continue working partially with delivery or pick up service, like some restaurants in Plaza del Caribe. A minimum maintenance, security and central plant team also works to service the buildings' cooling system. We are working on a plan to develop basic principles to maintain social distancing and to minimize contact points," said Lorraine Vissepó, director of Communications at Empresas Fonalledas.

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