The A. J. Advisor | December 2020
Volume 26, Issue 3 | Download
Managing Commercial Real Estate During a Pandemic
by Jay Winer
As we all struggle through the scourge of Covid-19, there is hope that by carefully managing our resources and relationships, small businesses can survive long enough to thrive when things improve.
All of us have had to “pivot” from our normal ways of operating since there is nothing normal about these conditions and may not be so for quite some time. So, how has htis affected our approach to managing commerical property during this time?
In the area of resources, a key area has been technology. Thank goodness most business committed to upgraded hardware and software to allow for financial record keeping, file maintenance and communication well before the pandemic. It has provided the “lifeblood” of managing property from afar.
Of course, our most important resource is our staff. We consider them front line in terms of tenant contact, maintenance, repair, contracts and communication. Their safety had to be and contineus to be first and foremost in our policies to deal with Covid. So first steps are providing protocols with staff input and reduced staffing in office with carefully managed schedules. Taking advantage of grant programs such as the Payroll Protection Program through the federal “Cares Act” provided some immediate assistance when all operations and collections were almost non-existent for the first three months. Since then, careful and continuing tenant relations has been key to managing collections and expectations between owners and tenants.
Maintaining those relationships has one most important principle for survival and that is communication. Immediate and continuous communication employed from the beginning of the crises is critical. We reached out to every tenant to design a payment plan and lease modifications that could satisfy them and owners. We researched every grant and financial support program that could benefit them and put them in touch and in some cases, helped fill out the applications. This goes a long way toward helping them meeting their own expenses, including rent.
In this time, getting is only as good as giving. Giving support, aid and information hopefully returns long term survival of businesses that support our owners and our own.
by Stuart Title
These past 9 months have been brutal for most and I am not here to rank, but one of the hardest hit industries has obviously been restaurants. 1.2 billion square feet of space pre-Covid and many estimates I have seen from intelligent industry insiders is 500 million square feet or more could be empty by March. Locally, names like James Joyce in Baltimore or Clyde’s in Columbia are now gone and dozens of chains have filed for bankruptcy.
Did we really need all these restaurants? The answer is a resounding yes! Well, maybe not all, but I now realize how much restaurants and food in general create so much of our, or at least my, social activity. Whether a quick bite or formal sit down or just drinks and a snack, it is a place to go, socialize and get out of the house. It is a place to meet a date or gather with friends and family maybe for a special event. This all began March 13, 2020 and now dining inside has become a luxury for some and a no-can-do for so many others.
So how is it that I titled this article “Hope”? Well, I have been amazed by the strength of the group I will call restauranteurs. From chefs to owners, to bartenders and to staff, the tenacity I have seen is what gives me “Hope.” Since March, A. J. Properties has renewed two restaurant leases for clients, leased another empty one and are about to lease a second. The restauranteurs I have met along the way, even when facing a dire position wit their current situation, are still looking to the future. The answer is mostly “This is what I do.”
A chef who had just signed a catering agreement in February with Amazon’s offices in northern VA and on top of the world, was wiped out in a week. He quickly picked himself up and got engaged with a flower service that needed a chef for their food and fruit bouquets on a contracted basis – boom, he was back in business. In July that same chef already needed a second location – enter A. J. Properties who leased him a vacant restaurant space which now also includes his Jamaican cuisine for carry-out, for now.
There are so many stories of hope that unfortunately get little attention because of so many hurting which is understandable. I am here to share this story of hope with you today. A positive story to maybe share with others who, while figuring out how to survive, will also have “Hope” because “This is what i do!”
If you need some “Hope” to fill an empty space, so not hesitate to call the team at A. J. Properties to let you know what we can do for you!
Do You Know?
AJP assisted the Odenton Heritage Society with the 1993 restoration of Odenton’s 1st bank, the 1917 Citizens State Bank Building into a coffee shop/museum at the Odenton MARC Station. AJP is versed in adaptive reuse (“real estate recycling”).
Why Hire a Construction Manager?
by Adam Winer
Congrats! You’ve located the perfect commercial space and negotiated a smart lease. Now What?