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Retail to the rescue

The retail real estate industry was quick to provide relief in the form of donations, supplies and volunteer hours to aid victims of the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida. Both hurricanes brought catastrophic floods and widespread destruction.

ICSC and the industry swung into action immediately after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in late August, and continued their efforts when Irma hit Florida two weeks later. ICSC members are donating to The American Red Cross through the ICSC Foundation, which is matching the first $500,000 contributed.

“With so many people impacted by the storms and resulting flooding, it will be a challenging road ahead as communities rebuild,” said ICSC President and CEO Tom McGee. “ICSC is committed to supporting our communities in the aftermath of these unprecedented natural disasters.”

Details of individual companies’ responses to the second hurricane were still being worked out at press time. But in Texas, Brixmor Property Group made a sizable donation to Houston Food Bank to fund some 50,000 meals for the hardest-hit residents. It also offered the use of several shopping center parking lots to the American Red Cross for relief stations and teamed up with some of its national tenants to provide essential supplies to residents. CBL formed a dedicated relief program for employees affected by the storm through its creation and initial funding of a GoFundMe account, and it invited employees to donate some of their paid time off to the cause. Parkdale Mall, in Beaumont, Texas; and Pearland Town Center, south of Houston, were the hardest-hit CBL centers.

Howard Hughes Corp. teamed up with United Way to create a relief fund. The developer double-matched each employee contribution and donated blankets, bedding, clothing, food and other items, as well as committing employee volunteer hours. Kimco Realty Corp. pledged to match all employee donations to the American Red Cross. The front page of all individual Simon mall websites is dominated by a plea for donations to the American Red Cross, including a donation link. Additionally, donations from Simon Youth Foundation supporters in Simon malls across the U.S. have provided added support to the firm’s academy students and teachers in the affected areas of Katy, Texas; and Lake Charles, La. Nearly 100 percent of GGP employees have contributed to a GoFundMe account to benefit its workers affected. Washington Prime Group participated in relief drives at numerous centers.

“ICSC is committed to supporting our communities in the aftermath of these unprecedented natural disasters.”

Industry brokerage and management partners such as Avison Young, Colliers International, Cushman & Wakefield and JLL also contributed. Teams of JLL staffers ran donation drives to benefit victims in shelters, and JLL encouraged staff to take advantage of a matching program set up with the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Dallas-based Weitzman, which manages 4 million square feet of Houston properties, held fundraisers, contributed money and coordinated donation drives with Dallas-based Trusted World for clothing, baby items and other necessities. KM Realty Advisors LLC turned its Shops at Memorial center into a boat ramp and rally point for rescue personnel, with a makeshift welcome center.

Retailers came up big to aid victims as well. Walmart and its foundation donated cash and products totaling up to $20 million to relief organizations, plus matching customer donations two-for-one in both cash and products. The Home Depot Foundation pledged $1 million to organizations including the American Red Cross, Convoy of Hope, Operation Blessing, The Salvation Army and Team Rubicon. The company dispatched its volunteers to deliver supplies and help with cleanup. Bass Pro Shops donated at least 100 boats for rescue efforts plus tons of supplies to Convoy of Hope and the American Red Cross.

Other retailers that contributed included Texas-based Whataburger, Kohl’s, PetSmart, McDonald’s, Houston-based Mattress Firm and Whole Foods Market–Amazon.

By Steve McLinden

Contributor, Shopping Centers Today

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