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Northeast Snowstorm: 21 Tips From CRE Property Managers


The East Coast is about to get hammered with snow, with the major cities in the Northeast — from DC up to the Canadian border and west through Pennsylvania — potentially accruing one foot of snow Monday night. New York has up to 23 inches in its forecast, which would be a 129-year record for March

Snow can cause damage to commercial property, from burst pipes to roof collapses, so Bisnow rounded up best practices from property managers in the country's snowiest metros to prepare for snowfall.

A version of this story published Jan. 30, 2015. 

Avison Young's Peter Leroux, Toronto


Leroux is the managing director for AY’s property management division in Ontario, covering 15M SF of office, retail and industrial space.

1) Prequalify Service Providers – Snow removal equipment can possibly cause damage; make sure contractors have requisite liability and property insurance in place.

2) Make Specifications Clear – When negotiating with snow removal contractors (his team does so by August), be explicit about needs: at what point you will need snow removal, whether you will need ongoing removal throughout the day (especially for highly trafficked retail), and whether you will need an equipment station on-site.

3) Beware Of Salt Overruns – Salt is expensive, so Avison Young buys in bulk and early. Specify how much salt contractors should be putting down, because some put down too much — and that can cause damage to property by eating away at curbs and sidewalks and killing vegetation. His staff immediately sweeps up extra salt.

Avison Young's Keith Lipton, Washington, DC


Lipton is chief operating officer of Avison Young's US operations and managing director of the DC metro offices, with over 20 years’ experience in property management.

4) Simplify The Process – Negotiate a point during a storm when the contractor will come out to plow automatically — say, if an inch of snow falls or there is a certain amount of ice that warrants salting.

5) Understand Tenants’ Critical Needs – While leases are being signed or tenants are moving in, speak with them to find out what in their offices will be most impacted by a storm and what systems (like servers) would need to be hooked up to emergency generators to keep their businesses running.

6) Take Care Of Property Staff – Security, engineering and management teams should have a place to go in case it is impossible to get home. Reserve rooms in a nearby hotel, and have a contingency plan ready so they understand who is staffing the building and when in case there is a lockdown.

CBRE's Deb Gallet, Chicago


Gallet oversees 15M SF of industrial, suburban office and CBD office properties in the Windy City.

7) Know The Property – Walk around before winter, looking at parking lots, sidewalks and entrances. Clear obstructions that might make snow removal difficult (like potholes and tripping hazards) and if possible, see if the property can accommodate contractors' equipment, like snowplows, which allows for an almost-immediate response.

8) Understand The Depth Of Equipment And Staff – This is critical for adequate removal times.

9) Communicate With Tenants – Talk to them about snow plans before winter comes. They may be able to point out other issues management staff is not aware of. Make sure staff proactively follows up on concerns or problems.

Joseph Metcalfe And Brian Sullivan, Rockefeller Group, NYC


Metcalfe and Sullivan are the respective property managers for 1221 and 1271 Avenue of the Americas, which total 5M SF. An employee of People Magazine, a tenant at 1271, filmed this great time-lapse video capturing Snowstorm Juno over a 24-hour period in 2015 — and in the process, caught Rockefeller's property management team implementing its highly coordinated snow removal process.

10) Block Off Critical Locations - Secure various areas to limit pedestrian traffic, especially ones that typically produce falling ice.

11) Have A Written Snow Plan - Make sure it includes manpower and shift coverage, written logs for equipment usage and servicing, and a contact list of relief personnel.

12) Make Sure Equipment Works - Check all ride-on and push equipment to make sure it is in working order or serviced after each use, keeping written logs in the snow plan. Same goes with communications equipment so ownership can maintain radio contact with personnel and supervision.

JLL's Karen Raquet, New Jersey


Raquet is the director of national property services for JLL Retail, which has more than 160 centers, totaling nearly 50M SF, under management.

13) Be Ready To Go By Fall - Snow occurs as early as November in areas like the Midwest, so make sure procedures are outlined, employees know their key areas of responsibility, contracts are in place, and all equipment is inventoried and ordered.

14) Monitor Constantly - The blizzards of 2016 caused several dangerous roof collapses across the country, so check the roof for drifting snow and added weight near HVAC units. Watch for melting, refreezing, drain clogs and seepage, as well as backup generators, electrical systems, sprinkler rooms and back hallways for problems caused by freezing temperatures.

15) Keep Tenants Informed - JLL uses the RedFlag emergency notification system, as well as properties' websites, to relay information about closings and delays. Property managers also educate tenants about keeping properties safe, including leaving water dripping overnight to avert frozen pipes and shutting off unattended heating elements to prevent fires.

WC Smith's Josh Baker, Washington, DC


Baker is a property manager for WC Smith, which owns and manages 12,000 apartment units in the DC metro.

16) Avoid Supply Issues – Baker starts thinking about snow removal in August, when it buys ice melt in bulk to save money. It is then delivered by November. “We started ordering supplies early because in the past, the product wasn't always available when we needed it,” he said. Have necessary tools on hand and negotiate contracts with landscapers to make sure they are available.

17) Form A Communications Tree – From property staff to contractors, make sure there is a clear plan to keep in constant contact by phone and email when snow is coming. It is especially important as the forecast shifts — and storm’s predictions can change every few hours.

18) Err On The Side Of Caution – The last thing any building owner needs is staff members or tenants to slip on ice and injure themselves. While it is always tempting to save money, especially when the forecast calls for only a little bit of precipitation, it is wise to pre-treat surfaces.

Novus Equities' Steven Hess, New Jersey


Hess is owner of Novus Equities, which owns a two-building medical office campus at 40 and 50 Union Ave. in Irvington, N.J.

19) Stage Equipment For Critical Buildings – People who frequent Novus’ buildings use wheelchairs, walkers and canes, so it is essential that snow and ice are cleared immediately. The firm has purchased its own snow removal equipment so the team is ready right away.

20) Make Sure Property Staff Is On Board – A staff that understands they might have to stay overnight to prepare properties for the following workday is critical to the property’s success. (That sometimes means setting up cots and food inside so properties can be constantly plowed and ready for a 7:30 a.m. opening.) Some doctors operate critical-care practices and cannot afford to close their offices.

21) Consider An Alert System – Novus Equities is setting up an emergency notification system to advise tenants of snow and other emergencies that might affect their buildings, Hess said. The system will provide alerts via text message and email to communicate delays, whether certain parts of the buildings are closed, and other critical info.

Related Topics: snow, Blizzard