Retail activity is gaining momentum commensurate with the strengthening economy, and, as you would expect, prospective tenants are seeking to lease in the most appealing, well-located and best-managed shopping centers. Since the beginning of 2014, we have secured a number of new assignments from property owners who want to position their centers for maximum advantage in this rapidly reviving market.
For commercial property owners, the key to riding this new and welcome wave is smart real estate property management that creates cost-effective solutions without compromising curb appeal or quality service. That’s a balancing act that we have mastered in our 60 years in retail real estate. We’d like to share with you some of the fundamentals we put into play in every commercial property management assignment we undertake.
Establishing Relationships: That Important First Step
It’s fun diving into a new property, but it’s also extremely work-intensive. The first and most important step is establishing relationships with the existing tenants. We never overlook this one. In many cases, management of the property has turned over for a reason. Our top priority is to determine what needs to change as we go forward and what needs to stay status quo.
Our property managers make time to sit with each tenant in our new property and discuss their experiences at the shopping center: what they like and what they don’t, what unresolved issues they may have that we can address and, also, what’s going right and shouldn’t change. This dialogue is the foundation of the long-term relationship we are building. But we don’t stop with just that initial visit. Our managers stay proactive in tenant outreach and make sure individual store managers know we are always available to discuss any issues as they arise. Levin has a vision of our managers that is unique in commercial property management. We see our managers as not just administrators but as “ambassadors” both for Levin and the property’s ownership.
Start Right with the Right Contractors
New assignments in commercial property management also come with specific administrative requirements, like transferring and reviewing utility accounts and negotiating service contracts. Strong contractor relationships are vital to the success of our clients and ultimately our own success. We work hard to establish these relationships on a firm footing right from the start. We might renew existing contracts or, if our analysis indicates a change is in order, we’ll explore options and seek bids from new suppliers.
Just as we have a unique vision of our managers as “ambassadors,” we have a unique vision of our contractors as “partners.” We see them not just as suppliers of essential services, but as our day-to-day eyes and ears, reporting tenant concerns, so that we can provide quick responses and resolutions. While our property managers are on site regularly, our maintenance, landscaping and snow removal teams often are the first to discover that something is amiss – such as a downed stop sign or a water leak.
Having partners on the ground was especially useful during the extreme weather in our Northeast region this winter. Because of their presence at the physical properties under our management, our contractors were able to alert us to snow-related issues before they turned into expensive repair projects or disrupted store traffic.
We’ll continue sharing our experiences in effective retail property management in our upcoming posts here at Retail Property InSites. Please join us and provide your comments about our posts or about your own management experiences in retail real estate.
Robert Oliver ensures that the operation of each property entrusted to Levin meets the highest standards and remains within its operational budget. He directs the day-to-day activities of property managers at Levin’s 95 shopping centers (totaling more than 13 million square feet). He oversees the team’s training and professional development, aimed at providing superior procedures, direction and support for clients and tenants. Bob joined Levin in 2002 as a Property Manager and was elevated to his current position in 2013. With more than 27 years of industry experience, he previously oversaw property maintenance at South Street Seaport and Manhattan Mall.