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Commercial Real Estate Industry Post Corona, A Kind of Vaccine

Authored by Vineet Relia

Managing Partner,

Relia Management Solutions LLP

Couple of years back when the government setup the Smart City Mission the word “Social Distancing” was never heard and no pandemic of such scale ever considered. The current pandemic and the specific Hot spots clearly indicate that it is imperative the do a major urban city extension program to decongest the CBD’s and other hubs which have been most affected by Corona. Let’s look at some specific issues of commercial and industrial spaces to then arrive at a city level recommendation.

In terms of commercial real estate, assuming social distancing measures may soon become the new normal, this might force social environments such as cinemas, retail stores within malls or local grocery shops etc to completely upturn their business models to account for these unprecedented changes on how to operate.

Nowadays a visit to the Grocery store reminds one of the top designer outlets in Paris or Hongkong where normally you have a queue of people waiting outside to enter. The reason for this being they serve every customer individually and all items are brought out by staff using precautions like gloves etc. This will impact every business from the grocery store to large malls looking at adding space in case they want to retain the footfall and failing to do so will make them lose business to competitors.

Impact on commercial spaces:

  1. Retail outlets of all kinds will all need to adjust to social distancing ‘norms’, allowing for more free space to either adhere to future restrictions or the public favoring more space friendly environments.

  2. Movie multiplexes, cinema theaters, restaurants etc may have to increase the spaces between seats to allow for social distancing measure if they want to be able to function in times of restrictions or be more popular.

  3. Ideally at some point in time the norms in terms of maximum capacity permitted for social events in banquets and conference halls etc would be enhanced to enable certain level of social distancing during public gatherings and functions

Ideally at some point in time the norms in terms of maximum capacity permitted for social events in banquets and conference halls etc would be enhanced to enable certain level of social distancing d

The biggest change to commercial space will be the use of offices. Many companies are now functioning with their staff working remotely whilst their office space sits unused and empty. The biggest shifts economically is likely to be the reduced need of big office space, especially as companies will be looking at means to reduce overheads and costs in a new business world post coronavirus this could lead to companies wanting to downsize to smaller offices for essential face to face meetings. The Barrier to this business model will be the likelihood it will only be feasible to upper management who are in a position to own/rent property and has the adequate space to work from home. The majority of workforces are built on lower paid staff who might find this new shift impossible to adapt for long term. Although many business owners might currently be looking at this as an option to maintain productivity whist slashing overheads, it might turn out to be a pipedream when the realities of post pandemic living resume. It is more likely that companies might downsize and encourage hot desking with an element of remote working, this will still see an opening of larger office spaces being vacant which can work well to develop much needed emergency health complexes

Impact on workspaces like offices & industrial parks

  1. The need for office space will be reduced, primarily with an objective to reduce overhead cost and commute time etc.

  2. The space which is freed up could be utilised to setup some emergency health center, business continuity and disaster management rooms.

  3. The industrial spaces will have to carve out some living space within their complex for the workforce employed. This could be in the form of an affordable housing funded through the CSR budgets of the company or simply an investment for business continuity

In conclusion, the government should setup a major urban extension program to decongest the cities. One of the key factors for achieving this will be to give income tax benefits or other government SOPS for business including offices and industries to sub urban non hotspot locations. This will also trigger the housing demands in these locations which has been hit out by recession for long. In effect this will lead to decongested city centers, better housing and opportunity for industry to save basis government incentives, SOPS. The SMART city mission should be renamed to SAFE city mission and a sizable budget should be allocated to this mission as other than the actual vaccine this is the only prevention for such pandemics.

Authored by Vineet Relia

Managing Partner

Relia Management Solutions LLP

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