Was Colorado Mills prepared for one of the most damaging hail storms in its 15-year history?

Colorado Mills’s roof had not undergone any major repairs, according to Lakewood city records, since its opening in fall 2002.

Colorado Mills, closed due to severe weather damage, May 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Colorado Mills, closed due to severe weather damage, May 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) colorado mills mall; hail damage; lakewood; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
Colorado Mills closed May 8 after severe weather damage from hail and rain.(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Colorado Mills’s roof had not undergone any major repairs, according to city records, since its opening in fall 2002 when golf ball and baseball-sized hail earlier this month caused what could be a five-month closure of the shopping center in Lakewood.

The owner of the mall, Simon Property Group Inc., has declined to talk about the extent of damage at Colorado Mills or how the property was maintained prior to the May 8 storm. The city of Lakewood does not have permits or records showing that management of Colorado Mills conducted any major re-roofing or repairs since the mall opened nearly 15 years ago.

It’s possible the management at Colorado Mills made smaller fixes to its roof, according to Stacie Oulton, spokeswoman for the city of Lakewood.

“They can make repairs up to 100 square feet, and we would have no permit for that, and we would not have known about that or had any reason to know about that,” Oulton said. “Whether that did occur and why it occurred, you would have to find out from the mall since it would not have come through the permitting process.”

The Indianapolis-based investment firm that owns the mall has provided spotty communication to reporters, customers and even its tenants on the extent of damage. The firm did not respond to questions from Denverite about how the mall has been maintained. Colorado Mills also declined to say if it feels it feels the storm May 8 was just bad luck from Mother Nature or if the roof should have been better taken care of.

In 2016, Simon Property Group used more than a third — $99.7 million — of its expense budget on repairs and maintenance of its more than 200 properties, according to the company’s 2016 annual report. The company didn’t say how much, if any, went to Colorado Mills.

It’s not uncommon for roofs of malls, stores and other commercial properties to go 10 to 12 years without needing a major overhaul if they are properly maintained, said Rudy Berumen, regional manager for APOC Roof & Waterproofing Solutions.

Proper maintenance of a roof includes checking and repairing leaks, removing debris and verifying the spouts and drains are clear and working.

Berumen oversees the Colorado market and other western states for APOC, a major manufacturer of roofing, waterproofing and maintenance products for commercial and residential properties. He recommends maintenance occur on commercial roofs twice a year.

“Hail is the worst for roofs,” Berumen said. “It comes in at the side and dents air conditioning and heating unit vents. It makes little divots in the roof that creates soft spots that create the potential for leaks later.”

Colorado Mills’ issue was likely two-fold, said Ron Antener, co-owner of Lakewood-based Watershed Roofing and Restoration. He hasn’t worked on Colorado Mill’s roof, but based on his experience, he said the mall had several skylights that could have allowed leaks if damaged and the roof likely lacked a preventative layer to insulate it from hail damage.

“That hail not only went through the skylights, but it also penetrated through the roof because it didn’t have a superior roof system on it,” Antener said. Sometimes that has to do with the initial budget of a project.

Properties like Colorado Mills typically have 15- to 20-year warranties for their roofs that cover repairs, Antener said. “Maintaining a building like that would be, in my opinion, simple.”

Ted Jefferson, an election judge, watches hail pour from the sky from the covered entrance to the Denver Elections Division on Bannock and 14th. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) hail; storm; rain; cowx; election; ballot; vote; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
Hail pours from the sky near the entrance to the Denver Elections Division on Bannock and 14th streets in Denver during a June 2016 storm. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
How did the May 8 storm compare to others?

Colorado Mills closed after the hail storm in the area “created openings in the roof, which allowed rainwater to intrude into the mall interior, including all common areas and tenant spaces,” per the company’s description of the event.

Earlier this week, a preliminary estimate from the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association showed that the May 8 hailstorm in the Denver metro area is on pace to be Colorado’s costliest insured catastrophe ever. Properties reportedly suffered approximately $1.4 billion in damage as a result of the storm.

The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association did not have data specific to Lakewood, and both the National Weather Service and Colorado Climate Center said it is difficult to compare hailstorms in severity year over year.

Data manually entered into the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network by residents and amateur climatologists show the May 8 storm dropped the second-largest sized hail in at least 15 years on a 100-mile area that includes Colorado Mills.

The 0.55-inch hail in the area was only slightly smaller than 0.63-inch hail from a May 24, 2016, storm, based on the average size of hail reported in the CoCoRaHS system.

Entry 4 1/2. Colorado Mills, closed due to severe weather damage, May 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) colorado mills mall; hail damage; lakewood; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
Entry 4 1/2. Colorado Mills, closed due to severe weather damage, May 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
A possible 5+ month closure

Colorado Mills said in its statement that remediation and restoration efforts have already started at the shopping center and that management is working with insurers and other to get the mall reopened as soon as possible.

It hasn’t been too clear when the mall would reopen its doors. Last week Colorado Mills put out a statement saying, “We are currently unable to estimate when the entire mall will reopen for business to the public but believe it will be in time for this year’s holiday shopping season.”

The National Retail Federation generally considers the holiday shopping season November and December, months when stores make a significant chunk of their annual revenue.

The city of Lakewood could also lose a sizable amount of tax revenue.

“We’re estimating that at this point that sales tax impact of the mall being closed is about $350,000 a month,” Oulton said. “That’s a very rough estimate.”

Anchor tenants with exterior entrances at the mall can reopen sooner and lower the monthly hit to Lakewood. Super Target and UA Colorado Mills Stadium 16 IMAX & RPX are already open.

About 3,000 employees of the Colorado Mills mall are without jobs as repairs take place, Channel 7 reported earlier this week.

Generally, when employees lose their job due to no fault of their own, they are eligible for unemployment benefits, said Tim Galloway, business service supervisor at The American Job Center serving Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties.

“It’s surprising to all of us here the length of time the facility will be closed,” Galloway said. The workforce center is planning to put on an event for workers and businesses of Colorado Mills sometime next month.

Until then, Colorado Mills has resources for employees and businesses here.

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or @adriandgarcia on Twitter.

Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.