There are few challenges bigger than renovating a retail property while it stays open for business. Ensuring that these projects roll out as smoothly as possible requires impeccable planning and frequent communication among all the stakeholders – owners, tenants, employees, contractors and customers. To keep the negative impact to a minimum, here are some important considerations before you start your renovation.

1. Managing Traffic

During a renovation, maintaining a safe operating environment for foot and vehicle traffic (both for customers and construction crews) should be the primary concern. At all times, shoppers should be able to enter, enjoy, and exit the property easily. The most cost-effective way to avoid customer confusion – and accidents – is to use explicit signage that indicates:

  • Construction zones
  • Traffic flow
  • Parking areas and store entrances/exits
  • Caution areas
  • Detours
  • Access routes for emergency vehicles, and
  • Restricted sections

Aside from general safety, customer traffic flow bears special consideration, both through the work area and in the parking lot. Ideally, construction traffic should have its own dedicated lanes, and shoppers need adequate space to get their purchases to their vehicles. Ensure that mall entrance- and exit-routes are well marked, with semi-permanent barricades in place to keep shoppers and their vehicles out of active work zones.

2. Keeping It Clean

Dust is the bane of every construction project, and is especially hard to control in a wide-open area such as a mall. However, effective use of dust-abatement technology will keep emissions to a minimum. Wet saws and dust collectors use water to keep ambient dust – and harmful particulate levels – low during cutting and fabrication, while negative-air HEPA-filter vacuums create inward airflow that prevents dust, particulates, and fumes from escaping the work area. Air scrubbers then capture the contaminated air, clean it, and push it out.

If possible, work areas should simply be barricaded – or, ideally, separated by a significant distance – from areas that are open for business. The dustiest work, such as cutting and grinding tile, should be conducted outside of retail hours, and in a cutting tent.

Alternatively, the cutting and grinding can be performed at night behind barriers that are unrolled and draped over entrances to keep dust from escaping the work zone. In the morning, your contractor can just roll the barriers up, tuck them away, and clean thoroughly, so your tenants can open the doors for business as usual. Taking these precautions ensures that neighboring shops remain virtually dust-free.

Daily cleanup of work sites is a must, and anything that can’t be cleaned up should at least be covered up with a semi-permanent barrier and be set well away from mall traffic.

3. What Customers Need to See …

It’s vital to clearly mark all potential trip hazards and keep the jobsite clear of debris. Your contractor may want to go through the planned construction zone with you at the outset to identify locations where you’ll need temporary transitions, such as in areas where flooring will be removed. You’ll also need to discuss where temporary ramps, high-visibility strips, or caution tape should be used to indicate uneven areas.

Once construction begins, you and your contractor need to meet again periodically to verify that trip hazards are marked effectively and ensure that liability obligations are met. Identifying these potential trip areas falls under the larger umbrella of project pre-planning: When everyone understands what’s expected, it’s easier to adhere to the rules.

4. … And What They Don’t

In the best-case scenario, a project should be so unobtrusive that customers aren’t even aware that your property is undergoing a renovation. Ensuring that all the prep work is done after hours or in a tucked-away, inconspicuous place, and that construction materials are stored behind tall barricades – either in the parking lot or in a quiet corner of the mall – will keep customers out of the renovation process. With careful planning and execution by your contractor, renovations can have a very limited impact on the customer experience, helping to maintain revenues throughout the course of the project.