By Yaromir Steiner
COVID-19 has come and gone…is what many commercial landlords and developers hoped to believe as states slowly allow non-essential retail and shopping centers to reopen for business. While a bevy of health and safety guidelines have been implemented at almost every consumer-facing touchpoint within centers throughout the country, the truth is that this pandemic is far from over.
In the short-term—that is, the next 12 months—commercial real estate landlords would be wise not to underestimate the likelihood of novel coronavirus’ continual spread. Many top government officials throughout the country have admitted they reopened businesses too quickly, prompting resurgences of the virus in numerous states.
Like everyone else, landlords are beginning to relax as things return to “normal.” This is a mistake. I continually stress to my team that if we’re not careful and precise, there’s a high chance we may have to shut down again. To get guests comfortable, Easton Town Center implemented a “Just Wear It” mask campaign featuring vibrant communications throughout the center. We must wear our masks in public, maintain daily temperature checks, ensure disciplined cleaning of common areas, and encourage guests to follow guidelines to the best of our abilities. Now, more than ever, easing off in these precautions can only lead to fiercely negative public attention.
At Easton Town Center, my team strongly encourages retailers to follow state guidelines to the highest degree. Moving forward, maintenance will be key. For the good of any retail center, strict and clearly defined health and safety guidelines need to be followed for at least the remainder of 2020.
However, as our understanding of the spread of the virus improves, following these guidelines may not be enough. We believe the next level of protection will involve IAQ (Interior Air Quality) improvements to avoid aerosol transmission of the virus. There will be requirements to reduce the virus density in the air through increased fresh air input, better filtration (minimum MERV-13 or HEPA filters), and ionization or UV treatment of the air flow. This will be an additional burden for landlords and owners to address.
Our ultimate goal should be to communicate what we are doing, visible or invisible to our guests, and strictly implement what we are promising. Many of the world’s top brands, such as Delta, not only maintain the most stringent health measures, but they do a fantastic job of making their customers feel comfortable abiding by them. This is what we, as commercial landlords, need to convey to guests and tenants of our centers—that we’re serious about new standards of safety, and committed to making guests feel as comfortable as possible shopping with us.
Remember, at the end of the day, it’s about risk reduction, not elimination.