Natural disasters have such a strong impact on commercial real estate assets. They act without remorse and many times with little to no warning.
Whether the asset is someone’s home, a business, a gathering place, or any other combination of uses, destruction of property significantly impacts a community. Our team and I recently encountered a devastating tornado that swept through a residential community. More than fifty homes were impacted, and many were destroyed. Landscaping, furniture, roofs, and all sorts of debris got thrown throughout the community. In this instance, the residents had proper notice before the storm hit and evacuated the area prior to the storm. While we’re thankful for no human injuries, many retirement homes were gone forever.
Overall, for me, the experience was surreal. Luckily, I had not previously experienced the type of destruction and disaster that hit Fort Myers, Florida. In the aftermath, families, husbands, wives, and friends were in disarray, picking up their personal belongings from the roadways, their neighbor’s yards, or a nearby storm ditch. Residents faced looking at their collapsed homes and contemplating their next move.
The amount of help provided and volunteered was inspiring. It stemmed from all over Florida and beyond. Dave, the maintenance supervisor and resident, worked 100 miles an hour with the equipment he had on hand; doing the most possible to help people in need.
And it was a lot of work! Large pieces of buildings, roofing, furniture, etc. were thrown around the property and required extensive clean-up. I helped in the ways I could with general clean up, supplies, and organization. I felt grateful to be a part of such a motivated and impactful team that was able to be there for the residents when they needed them most.
Our team was put in this position as managers on a property—acquired less than three months prior—and needing to act quickly and with compassion for a community, where many of the residents have lived for many years. Our on-site partners took charge with volunteers, support programs, and utilizing the resources in surrounding communities to put our best foot forward and make an impact immediately.
Things happened fast—the property’s clubhouse turned into a hub for supplies, a support network, and gathering place for planning meetings. The initial days were filled with communication and organization. It’s easy to fall into the chaos a tornado represents. The storm sent residents’ personal belongings and home materials hundreds of yards throughout the community and it’s easy to imagine how they were feeling at the time. Our team pressed forward to ease that chaos and put order to the community’s emotions.
The Work Goes On
As an owner’s representative, we were tasked with multimillion dollar capital improvements, much of which to be completed in the first year of ownership. We decided continuing on plan with major property improvements, despite the significant setback caused by the tornado, showing the residents that the new owners were there to keep promises. All our partners worked together and coordinated with our consultants and design teams to keep projects moving forward.
We ended up starting and finishing an entry landscaping project—kicking off the clubhouse renovation—and installing new mailboxes for each resident while disaster restoration was underway. We’re thrilled the team persevered together and the residents are showing their gratitude with each success. These types of wins are what project managers hope for. We’re excited to keep this momentum throughout the property portfolio and for this particular community.
If you’re planning a new real estate development or renovation construction project, we’d love to discuss the risks and options to help you overcome some of the challenges, even natural ones. Contact us today or call us at 888.357.7342 to discuss how leveraging our knowledge, expertise, and ambition could drive your next project or portfolio to success.
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