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South Florida’s Office Market Experts Weigh in on Impact of COVID-19

In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, current indicators suggest that South Florida’s office market is weathering the immediate storm. That’s according to panelists participating in NAIOP South Florida’s recent inaugural virtual roundtable Office Market: Report from the Trenches.

The Commercial Real Estate Development Association’s roundtable was moderated by Darcie Lunsford of Butters Realty & Management, who is also president of NAIOP Florida. Office market experts Mark Corlew of Grover Corlew, Greg Martin of Avison Young and Barbara Black of JLL candidly discussed immediate industry concerns, and their perspectives on the office market trajectory for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

The panelists agreed that while more than 85% of tenants were able to meet rent obligations in April, with retail establishments as the hardest hit during the crisis, they will learn more as rents come due in May and June.

Among smaller business tenants, “the immediate panic has eased a bit for those who have received governmental loans,” said Corlew. “Tenants are now looking to us to assure employee safety as the economy begins to open back up, so we are working diligently to add infrared light to HVAC systems, provide extra janitorial services for common spaces and add more safety signage throughout our buildings.”

Avison Young’s Martin also pointed out that building operational expenses will inevitably rise, and questioned whose responsibility it would be if there was an outbreak, tenant or landlord, to clean up resulting biohazards.

“There hasn’t been a hard stop in terms of office transactions,” added JLL’s Black.

The panelists recognized, however, that new deals will likely be delayed as businesses take a wait and see approach while the healthcare industry works to find a vaccine. An uptick in office vacancies, an increase in subleasing, a dip in rental rates and more tenant requests to reduce rents are also expected in the coming year, the extent of which is still unknown. While financial lenders continue to be accommodating, there was some concern that any change in that sentiment could become more problematic for the industry.

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About Dennis Kaiser

Dennis Kaiser is Vice President of Content and Public Relations for Connect Commercial Real Estate. Dennis is a communications leader with more than 30 years of experience including as a journalist and in corporate and agency marketing communications roles. He is responsible for Connect’s client content operations and is involved in a range of initiatives ranging from content strategy, message development, copywriting, media relations, social media and content marketing services. In his most recent corporate communications roles, he led a regional public relations effort across Southern California for CBRE, played a key marketing role on JLL’s national retail team, and was responsible for directing the global public relations effort at ValleyCrest, the nation’s largest commercial landscape services company. In addition to his vast commercial real estate experience, Dennis has worked on communications and launch strategies for a number of residential projects such as Disney’s Celebration in Florida, Ritter Ranch in Palmdale California (7,200 homes, 22,000 acres), WaterColor in Florida and PremierGarage in Phoenix. Dennis’s agency background included firms such as Idea Hall and Macy + Associates. He has earned an outstanding reputation with organization leaders as a trusted advisor, strategic program implementer, consensus builder and exceptional collaborator. Dennis has developed and managed national communications programs for Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, both public and private. He’s successfully worked with journalists across the globe representing clients involved in major-breaking news stories, product launches, media tours, and company news announcements. Dennis has been involved in a host of charitable and community organizations including the American Cancer Society, Easter Seals, BoyScouts, Chrysalis Foundation, Freedom For Life, HOLA, L.A.’s BEST, Reach Out and Read, Super Bowl Host Committee, and Thunderbirds Charities.

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