4M Helps Property Managers: The Reopening Files
The Reopening Files: How this property owner is preparing its office portfolio to welcome back tenants
As the St. Louis regional economy continues to reopen, businesses that have spent much of the past three months working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic are beginning the process of welcoming their workforce back to the office.
Mark Burkhart of BurkHill Real Estate LLC, a Chesterfield-based private real estate investment fund, explains how he and his team are readying BurkHill's 15 office buildings to welcome tenants back. That includes 400 Chesterfield Center in west St. Louis, where BurkHill is based.
When and how is the company welcoming back employees?: Tenants have already begun returning, though most only have a quarter of their employees on site, with staggered hours, Burkhart said. BurkHill and its property management team at Gershman Commercial Real Estate asked tenants to inform them when they have employees at the buildings and how many are there.
What changes are being made to the physical space, and why? BurkHill planned building improvements when it acquired the 15-office portfolio late last year, and has been able to make Covid-related changes during its renovations. The changes include adding touchless sinks and entry doors and toilets with foot pedals; placing carpet in stairwells to make it safer for those who can skip the elevators; and upgrading HVAC systems to improve air quality and filtration. Burkhart expects all of the renovations to be done in 30-45 days.
What policy changes have been instituted? BurkHill moved its janitorial services, done through 4M Building Solutions, from night to day to give tenants a visual peace of mind with cleaning. There are also more property managers from Gershman on site. BurkHill used to have three to cover all of the buildings; it now has around nine to be more responsive to tenant needs. But apart from that, Burkhart said BurkHill is following tenants' leads on how they want to operate, including leaving tenants to disinfect their own offices.
What has been the reaction to the changes? "Tenants are starting to come back but they're not coming at full steam," Burkhart said. "But I'm not hearing of anyone demanding people to return. ... At the end of the day, employers are there to attract great people and great people don't need to monitored every minute of the day."
What have you learned from the process? The pandemic, he said, underscores how important great communication is with tenants "I've been in the property management business for 40 years — being responsive is key," Burkhart said. "Everyone has to be prove they can provide a safe environment."