In spite of the overwhelmingly negative focus of news these days in regard to the overly politicized coronavirus pandemic, there is actually a substantial amount of good news to talk about. Here are the highlights from our real world of commercial real estate:
At the Allen Morris Company, our four active construction projects in Florida and Georgia haven’t skipped a beat. All are on target for their projected completion dates since at no time did we have to halt the progress. We have worked with our contractors who implemented COVID-19 testing, protective equipment, and creative solutions to social distancing, which is challenging when trying to accomplish things like installing elevators in an elevator shaft!
Office, retail, and residential tenants have suffered, some more than others, and we meet compassionately with each one individually who may have extenuating circumstances. Some require creative lease restructuring or deferred payment schedules. While we have experienced a small percentage of delinquency in office and retail tenants and in apartments, the upside is that our talented team has transformed our company into an “online” working and marketing organization.
We are continuing to lease our new projects under construction as well as existing office, retail, and apartments by way of virtual tours. I’ve never seen this before, but our apartment rental and office leasing teams have effectively pivoted to virtual online operations. Many prospective apartment residents and students are taking entirely virtual tours online and signing lease agreements without even stepping on the property.
This is something new for us. Curious to see what it looks like? Take a virtual tour right now of one of our new apartments:
- Our still-under-construction The Julian Apartments at Creative Village in Orlando and on the campus of the University of Central Florida (Instagram Live Virtual Tour)
- Star Metals Residences in West Midtown Atlanta near Georgia Tech (360º Virtual Tour)
- Residences at Maitland City Centre in Orlando (360º Virtual Tour)
Even businesses are now evaluating office and retail spaces with online tours and only taking a brief “social separation” visit before signing their leases.
Last week, we held the first ever Online Virtual Office Leasing Broker Event for Star Metals Office Building, in Atlanta. In this fast-moving 25-minute experience, they heard from five speakers, saw four different videos, over 20 photographs and architectural renderings, participated in three market polls, and won prizes in a virtual drawing.
On Monday, June 1st, our employees are anxious to start reporting back in at the Allen Morris Company offices at Alhambra Towers in Coral Gables, Florida. The way we plan to do that safely is with initial mandatory COVID-19 testing, dual shifts on alternate days to achieve social distancing, protective masks, and daily temperature testing.
The picture I used for this blog post is our own Lady of Faith weathervane that adorns the top of our headquarters at Alhambra Towers. I put a surgical mask on her for this blog to graphically demonstrate my dedication to keeping our employees safe and as a symbol for all of us to do our part in keeping each other safe and healthy.
The weathervane itself is a replica of the Lady of Faith statue from the Cathedral of Seville, Spain. She stands atop the west tower, our version of the Giralda Tower, a reminder that Faith stands alone above all else. The original Lady of Faith was fashioned circa 1504, and was thought to be the first example of Renaissance art in Spain. It was also built during the Black Plague of Europe recurring between the 15th -17th centuries.
I chose her because as a man of faith myself, I often feel a desire to connect business and spirituality. During this pandemic she has served as a reminder to me of the importance of faith in every aspect of our lives, whether spiritual or not. Our business and our economy are entirely based on faith: faith in the future, faith in one another to fulfill our agreements, and faith in our government to promote justice and safety. In America, our currency is backed, not by gold or silver, but by the promise of The Federal Reserve Bank; a promise based on faith in our government. Appropriately, our currency reminds us “In God We Trust.”
We want to have that same faith and reliability in the news we watch on television and reading the newspapers. Unfortunately, the old axiom of “if it bleeds it leads” is still true and with so many cable and Internet news sources competing for our attention, the media has stirred up a high pitch culture of fear by highlighting and emphasizing the worst possible interpretation of every event and forecasting the worst possible outcomes.
Our political leaders are no better, and I don’t think I need to elaborate much on that (And I am sure you, like me, don’t want to hear about it!). However, in the spirit of conveying good news, I thought you might like to see a brief video clip a friend sent to me recently of President Ronald Reagan on the important role of Faith. It is a comforting reminder of a time when political leaders could disagree with civility, humility, and faith, and the media responded with objective decency and respect.
Returning to a culture of decorum may be an impossibility and it may be naïve to think so, but looking back on these moments shows us that we are capable of it. It is a reminder to me that despite the horrors of this pandemic and the political/media circus it has created, we are a strong nation with a proud history.
In the face of our weakness and unknowing, we can dig deeper to find the best of business leadership, political statesmanship, and faith. And that is the best news.