Fortunately, other businesses redirected their operations to fillthe sanitizer need, often selling it in gallon jugs. To support localbusiness, Lincoln bought sanitizer from a local brewery. But toaccommodate that sanitizer, it needed to purchase basic dispensers.
“We had to back away from technology and just go to a basicmachine that didn’t use cartridges,” says Lincoln’s senior vicepresident of management services Shane Froman.
Apartment operators weren’t the only ones who had to scramble.While apartment residents stayed in their units when COVID hit,many retailers shut down, and office workers stayed home.
The uncertainty around when those tenants would return presented a challenge for companies like Lincoln. Early on, the company relied on mass communication systems to connect to viavoicemail, text and email. As COVID played out, the company usedonline surveys to understand how its tenants were approachingreopening.
“For any given building that might have 15, 20 or 30 tenants in
it, we were trying to understand what each of those companies was
planning to do [as far as reopening],” Froman says. “We also put
together information about each tenant and what type of business
they do to understand whether they were essential.”
Gaining knowledge was only part of the battle.
Lincoln’s office management team spent a lot of time thinking
about the basics—how frequently high-touch point areas needed
to be cleaned and how to create pathways for people and deliveries
to enter and exit buildings. Along with sanitizer, it put out direc-
tional signage in the lobbies.
“This wasn’t high tech,” Froman says. “It was going back to the
basics of property management.”
With employees wearing masks and social distancing and
Plexiglass barriers to protect cashiers, the safety investments are
obvious in retail.
Doug Schneider, executive vice President of operations at Bayer
Properties, a Birmingham, AL-based company that owns and oper-
ates retail and office space across the country, thinks these safety
upgrades are giving retailers a boost.
“What is important to the retail customer is that they can visually
see you are making an effort to keep them safe,” Schneider says. “A
store might have the technology, like UV lighting or MERV filters,
but a customer isn’t going to see these precautions or take the time
to read about them. They want to observe that an employee has a
face mask, there’s hand sanitizer available and there’s plexiglass
protection at the cash register.”
Retailers and restaurants also began using their parking lots for
sales. Early in the pandemic, between April 1 and April 20, curbside
pickup jumped 208% compared with a year earlier, according to
“I think that kind of retail experience—where you can use your
car as a buffer between you and other people—is successful,” says
JLL’s managing director of property and asset management Randy
Fink. “Drive-throughs are going gangbusters right now.”
During the first six to eight weeks after COVID, Schneider says
WIDE OPEN SPACES
For a decade now, developers of class A apartments
have been waging the amenity wars. As developers con-
tinued building apartments, they started outdoing each
other with more sophisticated common spaces, whether
it was high-tech gyms, coffee lounges or pet parks.
“In some places, we removed pool furniture to en-
sure compliance with government guidelines,” Maria
Banks, president and CEO of AMLI Management Co.
“For fitness centers, we’ve shut down certain pieces of
equipment to allow for social distancing. In the business
centers, some spaces may be closed off to ensure that
people stay separate from one another.”
The movement to more open spaces won’t be a
change for apartment REIT Camden. Camden CEO Ric
Campo thinks his REIT’s amenity design was helpful for
“With amenities and clubhouses, we’ve been using
big open spaces and then using furniture to define the
spaces,” Campo says. “I think that has helped with social
distancing. So we can move our furniture around easily
and put partitions between things as opposed to having
to reconfigure full rooms and knock walls out.”
Village Green CEO Diane Batayeh thinks COVID will
accelerate the adoption of even more extensive open
amenities spaces, though they will be outside.
“My prediction is that we’re going to see more open-air amenity spaces when it’s possible from a climate perspective,” she says.
Inside, Batayeh thinks amenity areas might shrink.When residents are working from their apartment community, which will probably happen a lot more after COVID, she thinks they will use more private areas.
“We’ll see fewer communal gatherings and more pri-vacy-driven amenity designs,” she says. “We may alsosee more of a trend toward larger unit styles because Ithink more people will work from home. So they’re goingto need that extra space for offices.”