Commercial Real Estate Pitches in to Fight COVID-19

Summer 2020 Issue
By: Richard Tucker
JLL installed 305 workstations in a new call center for Delta Air Lines that had been established in a hangar near Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. JLL

Industry’s charitable efforts help save lives and ease the economic burdens of the pandemic.

The ancient Romans began their year in March. They named that month after Mars, their god of war. This made sense, because it was in March that military campaigns could begin again after the winter break.

As we know, March 2020 was marked by warfare. But this time it wasn’t empire against empire. Instead, it was all of humanity against a virus. Commercial real estate companies and practitioners have been helping this battle in many different ways and giving back to their communities despite the economic downturn.

Flying into Action

In Atlanta, Delta Air Lines needed a lot of space on short notice. It had to have a place where hundreds of reservation agents could work to cancel customer flights. Yet those agents needed to maintain social distance.

Within three days, JLL’s Moves, Adds, Changes (MAC) team installed 305 workstations in a new call center that had been established in a hangar at the Delta Flight Museum near Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The workstations were spaced out to meet protocols for social distancing. Next, JLL set up a break room with refrigerators, microwaves, coffee machines, hand wipes and other vital supplies.

Meanwhile, a managing director on JLL’s valuation advisory team was literally flying into action.

David Dominy is a pilot with 43 years of experience. On March 15, he flew an immunocompromised passenger on a private flight from Laredo, Texas, to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. It was the fastest way to get the patient to safety.

During this crisis, it has been difficult for relief workers to locate places where they can work. 

Adapting Space in Record Time

Prologis is using its Space for Good program to donate unoccupied buildings and other space to COVID-19 relief efforts in the U.S. and around the world. The company says it has donated approximately 450,000 square feet of space, and more donations are on the way.

NAIOP New Jersey engaged in a similar project. It worked with the state government and identified more than 1.5 million square feet of commercial space that could be converted to intensive care units for use by first responders.

“It is truly heart-warming to know that the Meadowlands Conference Center space (donated by Hartz Mountain Industries) was transformed by the U.S. Army Corps into a field hospital,” Michael McGuiness, CEO of NAIOP New Jersey, told GlobeSt. “We are also working closely with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and surveying industrial members to identify their warehouse capacity and continued ability to process containers in the upcoming months.”

Across the river in New York City, the USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, sailed into the city to dock and provide medical services for the hard-hit city. But before it could begin its work, many permits had to be rapidly secured. A team from Langan, an engineering and environmental consulting company, worked around the clock with state regulators and Skanska to ensure that the Comfort could dock and get to work treating non-coronavirus patients in order to free up vital hospital space in the city, said Jeff Stoicescu, a senior associate at Langan.

Other hospital space was made available because of a partnership between The Boldt Co. and Wisconsin architecture firm HGA, a NAIOP member. Within a week, HGA had designed a prefabricated hospital space that can be shipped on a truck.

“The fact that these gentlemen were able to pull it off in the time they did was nothing short of heroic,” Boldt’s Dave Kievet told the Milwaukee Business Journal. Several of the units were ready for use in less than a month.

Helping Tenants Out

And, of course, there are the landlords across the country who are working with their tenants to work out alternate rent agreements that can allow everyone to stay in business.

Some are providing rent abatement, others are deferring rent until after the crisis. As small businesses are struggling to stay in business, “they are friends, they are our partners,” Greg Maloney, CEO of JLL’s retail division, told CNBC. “We will take a look [at tenants’ requests] and see what we think is right for everyone.”

The international effort to defeat coronavirus is the 21st century version of war. The commercial real estate industry is doing its part to give back to the community as we defeat the virus. NAIOP is tracking the good news stories, and will be posting updates on our COVID-19 Web page, so be sure to send them along. And, stay safe.

Richard Tucker is the former director of public policy communications for NAIOP.

More Good Deeds

NAIOP asked members to send in examples of good deeds their companies are doing during the COVID-19 crisis. Here’s a brief sample:

“To help alleviate the increased food insecurity issues during this crisis, my firm has donated to Volunteers of America Colorado’s Meals on Wheels program, supporting the delivery of 5,000 days’ worth of meals to homebound seniors throughout the state. We have also provided financial support to Food for Thought, covering 20,000 meals for Denver-based families in need. Aside from that, we are supporting restaurant tenants and other restaurants located near our active job-sites by purchasing gift cards and box lunches to support the businesses during this time. In turn, Confluent Development is handing out the gift cards and meals — up to $5,000 per project — to the construction crews at our job-sites throughout the nation, to express gratitude for their continued work on the projects.” — AJ Stackawitz, Confluent Development, Denver

“In response to the pandemic, our Granite Properties teams created a united front across all markets to support their local communities through donating to local nonprofits. We shared information about every nonprofit on Granite’s social media pages to show our followers how they can help their communities. Granite also encouraged employees to use Granite’s matching program by donating to causes they feel passionate about. … In addition, Granite employees across all our markets are sending handwritten letters, cards or their kids’ drawings to senior assisted living facilities. Nursing homes aren’t having visitors due to the pandemic, and residents may be feeling lonely.”
Sandy Benak, Granite Properties, Dallas

“Contour Engineering … created a networking group called Shotgun Sisters several years ago to teach women how to shoot sporting clays so they can take their clients and also participate in industry clay shoots. These shoots involve networking and building relationships as well. The Shotgun Sisters group now has a financial assistance option available so that if a member finds themselves unemployed during the COVID-19 crisis, both individuals and/or their companies can contribute financially. There is power in numbers. If all members give only $1, then that Shotgun Sister can buy groceries for the month. If all members give $10, then that member can pay their rent or mortgage.”  — Tara Lane, Contour Engineering, Atlanta

To see more good deeds or to submit an entry, visit