Tenants of Westgate mall are demanding that the landlord attend to their maintenance and security gripes, which they claim have fallen on deaf ears.
The disgruntled tenants sent an email listing their grievances to landlord Cushman and Wakefield Excellerate and the Plainsman on Thursday August 16.
They want more security guards during day and night shifts; regular joint tenant meetings; the entrances to the mall be cleaned, particularly of bird droppings; the closed-circuit television (CCTV) to work; potholes in the parking fixed; and for lighting outside to be improved.
They also say there is a terrible stench in the backyard, which has contributed to the increase in flies and cockroaches, and that cars were being stolen from the parking lot weekly.
The email was sent two days after a trolley guard was allegedly assaulted in a toilet.
“Westgate Mall is becoming a dump and we the tenants are paying high rentals,” read the email from the tenants who also want the 30-year-old mall’s marketing to be improved.
TThe Plainsman visited the mall on Thursday, hours after the email was sent.
At the manager’s office of Lady Bee’s deli diner, a piece of plastic covered a printer to protect it from water dripping from the ceiling, the rain falling outside making its way into the mall. A bucket to catch water was placed in the corner of the manager’s office. The employees of the diner and all of the tenants that the Plainsman spoke to refused to be named because they feared being victimised.
In the diner’s seven-year tenure, it has had to refurbish water logged furniture and repaint damp walls.
“These broken and cracked window panes at the entrances of the mall are not aesthetically pleasing,” said a manager, who had worked there for years.
Another tenant said the mall’s management did patch jobs, which was not solving the problem.
“The potholes have been there for months and the leaks have been there for years. They only do minor touch-ups without actually repairing the roof,” he said.
The cameras and security system was also called out for being inadequate.
Employees of anchor tenants referred the Plainsman to their head office. They said they were logging complaints but that nothing was being done.
On Thursday, cleaners were dispatched to various sections of the mall to mop up excess water and put out buckets to catch the water.
Shoppers, while walking to their cars, had to dodge flooded potholes.
Within the past two years Edgars and Jet have moved out of the mall.
Santie de Kock, spokesperson for Zone Fitness, which now occupies some of that space, said: “We’ve had our issues in and around the centre which we communicated to the landlord and to date some issues were resolved and some issues have not been addressed.”
Stephan Cilliers, real estate manager for Woolworths, said they were not aware of issues at the centre.
“Should we have any issues in the centres we occupy, we communicate and resolve these directly with the landlord,” he said.
A Checkers spokesperson said they regularly engaged with the landlord and liaised with them on matters, as and when was required with the aim of improving customers’ shopping experiences.
The mall’s landlord replied via email to the tenants on Monday August 20, and sent the letter of promises to the Plainsman.
Genie Scholl, portfolio manager for Cushman and Wakefield Excellerate, said the mall was “well protected with minimal incidents”.
She said they would consider increasing the number of security guards.
Ms Scholl said they released quarterly newsletters in lieu of tenant meetings; and that a deep clean would be done on the carpet where the pigeons mess.
“A long-term solution will also be implemented to prevent the birds from accessing the centre,” she said.
She said a broken fan in the women’s toilet had been fixed in response to its cleanliness; and that a cleaner was permanently based in both the men’s and women’s toilets.
“We will, however, apply pressure to the cleaning company to freshen the bathrooms more often and at regular intervals.
Ms Scholl said they hadaddressed the matter of the stench with their refuse contractor and requested more fly nets and chemicals.
She said the CCTV was working but that the landlord was continuously looking at options to make improvements.
She appealed to tenants to help by informing security of incidents, with a description of the unwanted person, to have them removed.
“Beggars are often identified and removed from site when spotted by security or management staff,” she said.
“Unfortunately, they return on regular intervals due to tenants offering them free food,” she said.
Responding to claims by the tenants that the rent was increasing but the maintenance was still lacking, Ms Scholl said rental escalations were part and parcel of retail leasing in the country.
“Westgate has an almost continuous zero vacancy rate, increasing foot counts year on year and houses one of the top performing Checkers in the country. There is also a very high tenant retention rate,” she said.
They hope to repair the potholes shortly.
She said most shopping centres experienced roof leaks and Westgate was no exception.
Their operations manager would investigate and review lighting outside of the mall.
She said the attackers of the trolley guard entered the mall like any other shoppers and followed the trolley guard into the bathroom where the incident occurred.
“Unfortunately, cameras cannot be placed in the toilets,” she said.
Ms Scholl said while there were incidents of car theft, they were not “out of hand”, considering the prevailing crime rates in South Africa.
“We will look at medium-term solutions and by possibly placing a clearvu fence around the centre,” she said.
She said they pride themselves on the centre’s continual increase in shoppers.
Ms Scholl said the foot count figures are measured monthly and show that the centre is going from strength to strength.
Lentegeur police said there had not been a spike in hijackings, car theft and store robberies at the mall. They said that crime was not a problem at the mall and the last incident, was of shoplifting at 5.50pm on Wednesday August 15.
Despite tenants’ grievances, it seems shoppers still choose Westgate Mall. Some complained about potholes and the loss of some major retailers but most of the people who took part in our Facebook poll said they loved the mall.
Farzaana Davids Isaacs: Westgate Mall is okay. I generally have a good experience but would I like to see more stores and they should look at extending their trading hours, especially on weekends.
Loren Valentyn: Very convenient. Get most things I need. However, the centre management should fix the potholes in the parking area. It’s getting worse.
Naielah Barnes Hendricks: Love Westgate Mall, easy to shop and browse compared to other malls which are constantly full.
Fairoza Fielies: Nice and relaxed environment and not overcrowded. Just wish some of the old stores will come back.
Fazlyn Buggas Bloomberg: I love shopping there. However, the trading hours sucks.
Alexia Williams: Close too home… but potholes need to be fixed… lights required in parking area. It’s very dark at night.
Anastasia Jane: I love Westgate Mall. The vibe is relaxed and quiet but it’s due for a massive revamp.
Soraya Saffodien: I like the mall but can whoever is responsible for the maintenance please fix the big potholes.
Melanie Miller: I think Westgate mall need a upgrade move stores food court and entertainment for kids.
Amanda-MizzBling Esau: It is nice, quiet and a very nice mall to walk …I feel comfortable walking in the mall!
Ruth Hope: Its very nice to shop there peaceful and quiet, however im just a bit paranoid about my car because a lot of cars gets stolen in the parking.