Giving Back to the Community

Commercial real estate companies are helping local first responders and health-care workers through community-based programs, and several are launching multimillion-dollar global relief efforts.

From initiating efforts to host blood drives, sew masks, create 3-D face shields, offer hotel guestrooms and provide meals for health-care workers and first responders to starting multimillion-dollar global relief funds, commercial real estate firms are giving back locally and around the world to communities impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

READ ALSO: CPE’s Coronavirus Coverage

“COVID-19 has presented the world with unprecedented challenges. It is important—and necessary—for CBRE’s response to be unprecedented too,” said Bob Sulentic, president & CEO, CBRE. “Now’s the time for us to rally together to support one another and especially our colleagues who have fallen on hard times.”

This week, CBRE launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund to support community and employee needs around the world. The campaign will raise at least $15 million, with a foundational donation from CBRE of $10 million, plus an employee contribution program. The company will match employee contributions at a dollar-for-dollar rate or greater. The relief fund will support organizations providing health-care workers with personal protection equipment (PPE) and medical supplies, alleviate hunger resulting from the pandemic and other local needs. It will also earmark $5 million for employees facing financial hardship by quickly disbursing grants up to $500 for food or other needs and a hardship relief program which will provide up to $2,500 for larger expenses including transportation, rent/mortgage, utilities, childcare, health-care and funeral expenses.

CBRE employees, including Darcy Stacom, chairman & head of New York City Capital Markets, have been helping out in their regions. Stacom, along with other CBRE colleagues, worked with the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce to source 100,000 masks to donate to Harlem Hospital and Hospitals Public Health Network of New York City. About 7,000 pairs of gloves were sent to Connecticut hospitals and 200 surgical masks were delivered to the Bridgeport Hospital Emergency Room in Bridgeport, Conn. In Honolulu, Katrina Medina, senior real estate manager, and her family used a 3D printer to create face shields for health-care workers. In Auburn Hills, Mich., Julie Gitary and Tracey Kudla, both lease administrators on the portfolio services team for the GWS-Comerica account, pitched in with Gitary sewing masks and Kudla donating N-95 masks.

Prologis launched a $5 million global relief fund earlier to provide financial support to nonprofits and community-based organizations. The Prologis Foundation will work with Feeding America and the European Food Bank to fund 8.5 million meals for people across the U.S. and Europe. Other fund recipients will include the American Red Cross, European Red Cross, Community Foodbank of New Jersey, NJ Pandemic Relief Fund and City Harvest in New York. Through its Space for Good, Prologis is offering use of unoccupied buildings and yard space for COVID-19 relief efforts to local, state and federal agencies in the U.S. and hospitals and relief organizations around the world. As of this week, Prologis had donated more than 1 million square feet of space in nine markets.  

“Prologis has a legacy of leadership in reaching out to those in need, and we launched our coronavirus relief fund as a way to donate to the most critically impacted. We also believe in leveraging our business to help and are proud to support relief efforts through our Space for Good program,” Edward Nekritz, Prologis’ chief legal officer and ESG head, told Commercial Property Executive.

Retailers step up

Shopping centers may be closed but some of the biggest mall owners in the U.S. and the world are finding ways to give back to their communities. Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is making monetary and in-kind donations to organizations that help the homeless and others in need. Using the hashtag #Westfield Cares, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and its U.S. Westfield shopping centers have enacted numerous community and philanthropic actions and are using social media to share the news and inspire others. 

Westfield’s Garden State Plaza in Bergen County, N.J., is active in numerous local initiatives, including providing meals to the Paramus Community Pantry and the Bergen Family Promise shelter and partnering with retailers and staff to gather and distribute PPE items and meals to Valley Hospital workers.

“The goal of #WestfieldCares is to ignite a movement of togetherness among our communities and focus on charitable actions that impact those directly affected by COVID-19 and the related economic hardship it has brought to families by the closing of businesses and schools,” said Colin Shaughnessy, EVP of US leasing.

PREIT, a Philadelphia-based retail REIT that owns and operates more than 22 million square feet of space, is supporting its tenants and community partners through activities including blood drives, food donations and parking lot activations. Capital City Mall in Harrisburg, Pa., hosted blood drives for the American Red Cross and Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank. The Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, Mich., partnered with Feeding America West Michigan to provide food for more than 400 families. Cecily McCabe, the mall’s marketing director, worked with volunteers to set up a drive-through food pickup at the mall parking lot. Tony’s Pizza and Red Robin at the Jacksonville Mall in Jacksonville, N.C., donated meals to health-care and supermarket employees.

 “The task ahead of us all is to make every effort to bring health and wellness to the communities we serve and support one another in our pursuit of regaining normalcy. Malls are a vital part of local economies, employing thousands and providing meaningful tax contributions to their municipalities,” Joseph Coradino, chairman & CEO of PREIT, told CPE.

Trademark, a Fort Worth, Texas-based real estate firm that owns and operates retail and mixed-use properties, has committed $100,000 to support local food banks. Many of the company’s properties are also helping organizations in their communities, including Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge, La., which is donating a percentage of all restaurant sales to the East Baton Rouge Parish school system for students in need of meals.

Other Initiatives

Many other CRE organizations are also doing their part, including Urban Land Institute Northern New Jersey, which donated $500 worth of dinners to health-care workers at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. ULI NNJ worked with Steakhouse 85, also in New Brunswick, to provide the meals.

Major hotel companies, including Hilton, Marriott and Choice are providing beds, guestrooms, meals, cleaning supplies and PPE. Marriott, with support from American Express and JPMorgan Chase, is providing $10 million worth of hotel stays for health-care professionals in hard-hit cities including New York City, Las Vegas, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J. Hilton is also teaming with American Express to provide guestrooms for frontline medical professionals and first responders.   

Choice hotels are housing members of the National Guard, first responders and health-care workers, at assets including Sleep Inn in Harrisonburg, Va., which has donated all its guestrooms to medical professionals so they can quarantine there and protect their families. Some Choice hotels like the Ascend Esquire Hotel in Gastonia, N.C., are providing meals or vouchers from their restaurants to essential and furloughed workers. The Cambria Hotel & Suites in Traverse City, Mich., donated sheets to Seamstresses for Safety, which are making gowns and masks for health-care workers.

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