Covid-19 has irrevocably changed the nature of how we interact with our commercial spaces. Offices, shopping centers, hotels and leisure space, all have changed. What the future holds is for us to determine and, personally, I think it is positive.
Real estate satisfies a simple premise: people interacting together within buildings and communal spaces. With social distancing, and the fear and trepidation it brings, this both breaks down the actual human interaction but simultaneously engenders the greater desire for the real community.
Pre-Covid, Sierra Balmain was developing a framework evaluating the future of the commercial real estate. An ideally built environment should supplement living with retail, entertainment, leisure, lifestyle, culture, workspace and embrace multichannel logistics. With significant repositioning and repurposing of many buildings ahead of many of us, we believe that this need is more relevant now than ever. It’s time we looked at our real estate with fresh eyes.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as adding a few food trucks, dusting one’s hands and walking off with a smug “job done” face. Physical communities will be far more adaptive and responsive in real-time, interacting with people frequently and with relevance. It is not just the real estate that will need to change, it is the way we look after it and look after each other.
Landlords, lenders and retailers, this is our goal. Let’s bring back the simple essence of what we own and manage. For what other purpose were the residential estate, the office complex, the hotel, the conference center and the shopping facilities built other than to accommodate the needs of the community, or indeed facilitate it?
James Turner is the managing director of Sierra Balmain, a Warsaw-based property investment firm.