Retail property managers always wear many hats and the past six months have been no exception. In fact, we have found ourselves in a distinctly stepped up role supporting tenants, particularly those categorized as “non-essential” as they have worked to reopen and stay open at a time of great challenge under COVID-19 imposed restrictions.
Across Levin’s 110-property Northeast and Mid-Atlantic portfolio, we have seen small and mid-sized retailers exercising creativity and agility, all while adhering to a variety of health and safety protocols as they welcome customers back. Central to their success has been a focus on moving forward, with an enhanced level of advocacy, flexibility and support from their property managers and ownership.
NitroFlex Gym at the Chester Springs Shopping Mall in Chester provides a great example. In June, the owner of the 15,000-square-foot fitness facility, worked with our team to obtain landlord and town approvals to hold classes in the parking lot. And once gyms got the word from Governor Murphy that they could go inside for one-on-one personal training, NitroFlex began prepping the gym to reopen. That’s when a piece of equipment shorted and caught fire, causing significant damage to the interior of the building.
Our team helped to coordinate sprinkler system repairs and interior clean-up, and obtain approval to for the gym to set up a large tent in the parking lot and continue operations outside. Today NitroFlex is open both outdoors and indoors with limited capacity, per state regulations. Outdoor classes and equipment are available under the marquee tent, which the gym plans to maintain through October amid continuing indoor capacity restrictions.
In the case of NitroFlex Gym, the support of property management and property ownership – at a time this tenant needed it the most – was critical to adapting and maintaining operations despite major obstacles and setbacks.
In today’s fluid environment the key is to offer resources, information and hands-on assistance to retailers. From the outset of the pandemic, property managers have helped shopping centers and tenants navigate and communicate guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, implement programs to promote safety practices and facilitate the reopening process. And those efforts continue.
While our role varies depending on the property type and location, our goal remains steadfast in always striving to provide an environment where tenants can be creative and succeed. Mom-and-pop retailers – who typically do not have the same resources as large national brands – are welcoming our support.
Levin’s property managers have helped restaurants navigate town approvals to increase outdoor seating where possible, set up curbside pickup for inline tenants, and assisted centers with social media marketing and signage to help them promote safety practices while getting the word out that they are open for business.
Even now, with most regions in Phase 4 of reopening, there remain many unknowns about what comes next and a strong sense of fragility among retailers who have managed to weather the storm thus far.
What we do know is that the pandemic has changed the retail landscape, perhaps forever. It also is becoming clear that property managers and owners are rising to the occasion by supporting tenants as they redefine their operations for a “new normal.”
Erika Toscani is vice president of property management at Levin Management Corp. in North Plainfield.