Fewer big malls, more town centers after pandemic

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SHOPPING malls have started implementing health and safety protocols amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. — PHOTO BY CATHY ROSE A. GARCIA

THERE will be fewer regional super malls and more town centers as the pandemic forces a drastic change in consumer behavior, according to a leading urban planner.

Felino A. Palafox, Jr., principal architect-urban planner and founding partner of Palafox Associates, said he expects development to shift from shopping malls towards stand-alone restaurants and shops, as well as outdoor kiosks.

“The suburbs will thrive, because the suburbs are dormitory towns… more shopping, dining, working will be in the suburbs. The downtowns, the CBDs (central business districts) will become less important, less desirable,” he said in a webinar organized by the Philippine Franchise Association in June.

As the Philippines continues to see a rising number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, consumers have stayed away from shopping malls out of fear.

In a bid to reassure consumers, malls have implemented health and safety measures such as limiting the number of people inside, temperature checks and regular disinfection of public areas.

Mr. Palafox said restaurants should have more natural light, ventilation, and spacing. He also expects more al fresco or open air dining.

“I’m doing some calculations now. Maybe the future restaurants will be 30% kitchen area, 30% dine-in, and 40% al-fresco — outside,” he said.

Restaurants have been allowed to restart some dine-in operations at limited capacities. For areas under general community quarantine, restaurants may have 30% of their dine-in capacity while areas under modified general community quarantine may increase this capacity up to 50%.

At the same time, Mr. Palafox said the Philippine Building Code must be revisited to lower the density of people in residential and office buildings.

“Our office could accommodate 100 persons. Now we redesigned it, it will accommodate only 28 persons. There will be a lot of adjustments,” he said.

Mr. Palafox emphasized the need for more parks and open spaces as well as bigger sidewalks and plazas in Metro Manila. He added there should be more bicycle parking.

He expects that residences will soon have disinfection rooms, isolation rooms, and kitchen gardens. — JPI