Winter Is Coming: Is Your Shopping Center Ready?

Just as many Chicagoans break out their parkas and tune-up their snow blowers in time for the upcoming winter season, retail property owners and managers must plan for the next #Snowpocalypse.

Retail properties are accessible to the general public nearly 24/7, putting constant pressure on property owners and managers to provide service and avoid winter emergencies that could disrupt tenants and their customers.

Asset Services Senior Real Estate Manager Christopher Potaczek is no stranger to helping retail centers through Chicago winters. Potaczek, a 17-year CBRE retail property management veteran, oversees multiple retail centers as part of an approximately 6 million-square-foot-portfolio of roughly 40 retail properties in the Chicago metro area. Today, CBRE Retail Asset Services is sharing five tips for preparing retail properties for the winter months ahead.

1.) Plan for snow removal
Often the biggest task of the season is hiring vendors for snow removal. CBRE Chicago’s retail team starts this process in July. They achieve big savings for property owners by pooling properties together and bidding out the properties by geographical zones. Combined with other commercial assets throughout the Chicago metro area, CBRE Asset Services oversees the snow removal bidding process for more than 50 million square feet of properties in 14 zones. This allows landlords to achieve better pricing than if property managers sought bids on a per property basis. During the first year of implementation, the zone approach saved 37.8 percent compared to snow removal costs the year prior.

“One of the advantages of working with a property management firm, especially for investors with fewer properties, is our bulk buying power. Often times it will cost the company less overall,” Potaczek said.

2.) Schedule maintenance checks
Make sure your systems are ready before the first storm hits by performing routine maintenance checks on building-wide systems such as HVAC and fire sprinklers. Inspect the roof in the fall for leaks in the roof membrane and clear roof drains of any debris. Also insulate outdoor plumbing spigots and properly winterize fountains and irrigation lines in the fall.

3.) Monitor heating systems with new technology
Install heat sensors in any vacant spaces to stop major winter problems in their tracks. If the temperature in the unit drops below a certain point, heat-sensing systems have the ability to alert the property manager instantly. This enables the property manager to resolve the heating issue before any noticeable side effects occur – like freezing pipes.

4.) Walk the property with winter vendors
Property managers walk through properties with vendors to plan where to pile snow during the removal process and which types of salt to use in landscaped areas. Some municipalities have restrictions on where the salted snow is deposited to reduce impact to wild life and retention ponds.  Property managers also work with landscape vendors to wrap plants and trees, if needed, with snow fence to protect them from the salt and cold.

5.) Meet with tenants
While most strip center property owners require tenants to maintain their HVAC systems, it’s important to check in with tenants before the season starts to ensure they’re in compliance because heat failure in one space can affect another.

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