Florida’s commercial real estate industry is still assessing the massive destruction caused by Hurricane Irma.
Building owners and property managers had anticipated the possibility of a major disaster and worked diligently to protect their properties and tenants from the coming storm.
PC360: How is Irma’s impact on commercial different from other monster storms to hit Florida?
Keaton: I was working in South Florida when Hurricane Wilma hit in 2005. The difference from that storm is that Hurricane Irma had a much broader impact in the number of metro areas impacted. The damage has been spread across the state, so the effect was not limited to one specific market. In terms of specific property losses, the majority of damage has been due to wind, resulting in roof damage, water infiltration and wind-borne debris damage.
PC360: Which markets were hit the hardest in terms of property damage?
Keaton: Northeast Florida and South Florida seem to have suffered the worst effects. Tampa has had less damage than the other areas of the state. Given the forecast in the days leading up to storm’s weekend arrival, there could’ve been even more damage to that area if the path had not changed. But as the storm shifted it caused more damage to the east of Tampa from what our property management teams have encountered.
PC360: Were some property types impacted worse than others?
Keaton: The difference in the amount of damage experienced is not as much between product type as opposed to the spot location. There’s just no rhyme or reason to how each individual property was impacted. You see many places where one building is damaged and the property next door is fine. So the storm’s impact was mainly driven by geographic location rather than by whether it was an industrial, retail, office, or multifamily property.
PC360: How did your hurricane preparedness plan fare when faced with a real emergency?
Keaton: Hurricane Irma really highlighted the importance of being well prepared and having evacuation, business continuity, and emergency communications plans in place. It was a reminder that you need to practice those plans like you’re going to execute them. Our property management team went through the same preparatory process for Hurricane Irma that we do each time a storm approaches, whether it has a minimal impact or misses us altogether.
We believe that our efforts helped to greatly reduce the impact on our clients and tenants. For those properties that were impacted, our post-storm recovery operations got assets back to operational status as quickly as possible.
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