mall walker

Sue Clover — driven inside by the cold weather — walks Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana on Wednesday.

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CHAMPAIGN — Exercising outside can be treacherous these days, so walking through Lincoln Square Mall has been more popular as temperatures have dropped.

But owner Jim Webster said COVID-19 has disrupted their patterns.

“There are probably fewer walkers than their used to be,” he said, though not significantly fewer.

When the state stay-at-home order was put in place last March, no mall walkers were allowed, Webster said.

They’ve been allowed in the Urbana mall since around June, he said, but with certain requirements.

“We’re able to allow walkers to walk,” he said. “We haven’t had any numbers that have been excessive, so it’s been well received and socially distanced and wearing face masks.”

At Market Place Mall in Champaign, general manager Dennis Robertson said the shopping center hasn’t resumed opening early for mall walkers but otherwise allows them.

“A few walkers are here at the 11 a.m. mall opening,” he said. “In compliance with the governor’s orders, masks are required for shoppers and walkers.”

The Danville Village Mall didn’t return a request for comment, but its website says mall walking is still prohibited.

“There will be no mall walking until further notice,” it says.

Webster said he likes having mall walkers, many of whom are regulars he has gotten to know.

“A lot of the regular walkers, they use some of the mall services and restaurants. They try to patronize the mall,” he said.

And it helps just to have more people in the building, he said.

As more COVID-19 restrictions gradually are lifted, Webster said he’s been seeing more interest in the mall from prospective tenants, and some of the existing tenants have reopened.

“It seems like people are getting ready to gear up again,” he said. “Several have just recently reopened on a partial basis,” particularly the different martial arts or performing arts studios.

And while the popular Baldarotta’s Porketta & Sicilian Sausage joint has been open for carryout, it is back open for some indoor dining, Webster said.

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