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Broward Country Commercial Real Estate

Outdoor Space as a Solution to Maximize Building Use During COVID

Taking advantage of available outdoor spaces can make businesses safer for customers and employees while navigating the global pandemic.

We’re learning more every day about the novel coronavirus that’s wreaking havoc on our society, giving us additional insight on how to protect ourselves. 

For example, it’s now common knowledge that the virus spreads person-to-person through close contact, but evidence also suggests that COVID-19 can remain airborne for hours in indoor spaces. It can even travel through HVAC systems. As a result, the longer people stay in an enclosed environment, the greater the potential transmission risk. 

Indoor airborne transmission is causing problems in a variety of industries. Bars, restaurants, and retail establishments are riskier environments for staff and customers, while some office workers also feel unsafe returning to the job site. 

The good news in South Florida is that we’re well-positioned to take advantage of the mild winter weather and can make better use of outdoor spaces than pretty much any other location in the country. 

A vaccine is on the way, but it’ll still be many months before immunity is widespread. Until then, here’s a look at how some businesses and property owners are maximizing their use of outdoor space.

Examples from dining and retail

The restaurant industry is an excellent example of how to use outdoor space to keep a business open. The more fortunate restaurants have patios, and others are developing them, allowing patrons to stay outdoors while enjoying food and drinks. 

One drawback is that patios can get crowded, with tables next to each other allowing for transmission to occur between diners. 

We’re seeing some businesses create proactive solutions to this issue by expanding their outdoor dining spaces. While extending a patio often relies on cities making exceptions or changing their laws, municipalities worldwide are doing just that to encourage a safer environment for restaurant-goers. 

Open-air shopping centers also allow for a safer experience for consumers with fewer restrictions on the number of people who can be in an area at one time. This additional flexibility assists businesses as they attempt to stay afloat during this difficult time. 

New York City is taking the outdoor shopping experience to a new level by allowing retail shops to extend into outdoor spaces. As the holidays approach, as many as 40,000 small businesses could begin using nearby outdoor areas

The weather in South Florida is clearly better than winter in New York, so it makes sense for businesses and commercial property owners to begin exploring the concept of open storefronts to allow shoppers to socially distance. 

Using outdoor office space

It isn’t just retail spaces that can use the outdoors to their advantage in South Florida, as offices can also shift certain meetings and tasks outside

The easiest way to accomplish this is by using courtyards and nearby parks when face-to-face interaction is necessary. This trend isn’t new, either, as 79% of new construction in Manhattan since 2010 features outdoor space

If your building has some outdoor space, like a usable rooftop or a place to build a terrace, property owners can consider renovating to create a brand-new amenity for tenants. Even though COVID-19 likely won’t last forever, the addition of outdoor space can attract renters well into the future.

Making indoor spaces safer

Staying outdoors isn’t always feasible, as there are situations where the weather won’t cooperate or people have sensitive information that they aren’t comfortable discussing in a public setting. There’s also the fact that businesses are paying for these buildings, so they’ll want to use them. 

That’s fair, and there are ways to make interior offices, stores, and restaurants safer for all who visit. Of course, cleaning and sanitizing help reduce the spread of the virus, but what about the air?

Encouraging employees and customers to maintain distance and using physical shields are part of the equation. However, as mentioned earlier, aerosols can linger in the air for hours and spread through HVAC systems.

One solution is to add ultraviolet lights to the interior of the building’s ductwork. In doing so, 99.9% of seasonal viruses will die before circulating through the building, keeping people safer from this type of transmission.  

Morris Southeast Group is on top of the newest retail, dining, and office space trends, ensuring that you can make the necessary adjustments to thrive in the current business landscape. A little flexibility can go a long way, and maximizing outdoor space usage, can be a novel way to attract consumers and tenants while keeping them safer. 
Call us at 954.474.1776 to learn how Morris Southeast Group can assist you. You can also reach out to Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

COVID-19’s Impact on Businesses in Broward County

COVID-19’s Impact on Businesses in Broward County morrissegroup.com
Open sign in a small business shop after Covid-19 pandemic

A look at the business environment during the initial response to the pandemic

When Gov. Ron DeSantis issued statewide social distancing measures on April 1, it was done to head off predictions that Florida could follow New York’s lead in hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

As we watched the Florida economy grind to a halt—particularly in the state’s southern counties, it seemed that we had somewhat dodged a viral bullet. This positive outcome has recently been overshadowed by quickly rising infections, with the state setting multiple records for new cases in late June and July.

While the initial lockdowns seemed to have worked initially and were less strict than certain states, businesses were severely impacted. With doors locked shut, workers furloughed, and some places filing for bankruptcy, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and Broward County issued a survey to gauge the pandemic’s economic impact. The research also strives to better understand the needs of businesses and identify opportunities to provide support.

A snapshot of the participants

Between April 20 (three weeks into the quarantine) and May 29 (nearly two weeks after Phase 1 of re-opening), the two groups began outreach to Broward businesses. Data collection resulted in 1,000 responses from businesses in all of Broward’s 61 counties, as well as 18 responses from Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, St. Lucie, Columbia, and Cook counties.

Of the responding businesses:

  • 22% are in the professional services sector
  • 8% are in the accommodation and food sector
  • 8% are in the healthcare sector
  • 8% are in the retail sector

In addition, the distribution of survey responses mirrored the county’s jobs distribution:

  • 17% in professional services
  • 12% in retail
  • 12% in education and health services
  • 9% in accommodation and food services

Key finding: operations and remote work

If there is any good news in the survey results, more than three-quarters of respondents (81%) said that their companies were open for business. Of these, 47% reported they were operating at regular hours and 34% at reduced hours.

Although 19% were not in operation during the studied period, it appears that remote work played a vital role in allowing many businesses to remain open. Sixty-six percent of respondents reported that either all (43%) or some (23%) of their employees were working remotely. Thirty-four percent indicated that they did not adopt this work option.

Key finding: Revenue, layoffs, and furloughs

This data gets to the economic heart of the matter—the bottom line for business and employees. Ninety percent of the respondents reported that the pandemic caused revenue losses, with 52% indicating their revenue had decreased by more than 75%. An additional 38% reported a decrease between 25% and 50%. Only 10% of businesses reported no revenue decrease (8%) or an increase (2%).

A closer look at job sectors provides an even clearer picture of the economic toll COVID-19 has taken on Broward businesses.

  • Not surprisingly, tourism took the greatest hit, reporting an average revenue loss of 87%. It was followed by life sciences (80%) and arts and culture (77%).
  • The financial sector reported the highest (31%) proportion of respondents with no revenue loss.
  • Wholesale trade (6%), manufacturing (5%), and healthcare (5%) were among the handful of job sectors that reported increased revenue.
  • 62% of respondents indicated that they did not lay off or furlough employees.

Key finding: Seeking assistance

The vast majority of companies (82%) applied for assistance through various federal and state programs. Although 241 respondents (18%) indicated they did not submit a single application for relief, the remaining companies (82%) applied for one or more stimulus sources.

  • The most well-known of the relief packages is the CARES Act PPP, the record-breaking stimulus package passed by Congress. According to the survey, 73% of the 545 applications for the program were successful.
  • In contrast, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, administered through the Small Business Administration, had only a 39% successful application rate for 333 applications.
  • At the state level, the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program had the lowest success rate—just 17% of 99 applications.

Where do we go from here?

In many ways, that’s the most difficult question to answer. While the survey presents a better picture of COVID-19’s initial impact on Broward’s economy, the situation remains unclear as caseloads rise. Nevertheless, the data does provide insight into what worked for businesses and what didn’t during the lockdown, and potential areas for improvement and government support.

This is a conversation that needs to happen immediately. As of this writing, Florida has sequential spikes in new cases, ongoing debates about mask-wearing mandates, and businesses closed and fined for failing to adhere to COVID-19 preventative guidelines.

Morris Southeast Group continues to monitor the economic impact of the pandemic. And we will update our clients, colleagues, and readers as events unfold.

If you have any questions about CRE investing or services, call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

Broward County Economy Remains Perky

Broward County and its economy are enjoying good times. Development is on the rise, companies are moving here (like our recent deal with Polenghi Group) and other companies are expanding here, such as retailers Hobby Lobby, Whole Foods Market and Trader’s Joe’s. When “luxury” and non-essential retail grows in a region, it is a sure sign in the rise of personal disposable income.

The median household income for Broward County families from 2006-2010 (most recent period of data collection) was $51,694, compared with $47,661 for all of Florida and $43,605 for Miami-Dade County. Palm Beach County had the highest median household income, at $53,242, according to American Community Survey.

Meanwhile, Broward County’s population grew by 6.9 percent from 2010 to 2014 (U.S. Census Bureau) and now stands at roughly 1.9 million residents. And we’re not just adding people, we are adding jobs. The county’s unemployment rate is currently 4.8 percent compared with 5.4 percent from a year ago.

Two of the largest developments that are getting set to begin are The Manor@Flagler Village in Fort Lauderdale and Dania Pointe in Dania Beach.

Manor@Flagler Village

Manor@Flagler Village (rendering is shown here) will be a mixed-use project with 382 upscale apartments and 22,476 square feet of retail. Related Group is the developer and their target audience for the project are millennials.

Dania Pointe has been years in the making and is huge, encompassing some 100 acres of land with 1,000 linear feet fronting I-95. Plans call for a regional open-air mall plus about 500,000 square feet of retail, office and residential space. Local folks will recall that some of the land was formerly occupied by Boomers, a family entertainment center and go-cart complex, and Dania Beach Hurricane, a wooden roller coaster that shut down in 2011. The development team is comprised of Kimco Realty, Robert Shapiro’s Master Development and Terry Salzman’s Salzman Real Estate Advisors. The project is slated to be built in phases and probably will not be complete until sometime in 2018.


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