Innovation and adaptation: What this could mean for education post-pandemic

Innovation and adaptation: What this could mean for education post-pandemic

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read September 2020 — The pandemic forced educational institutions to pivot all of their operations to a completely virtual landscape. Many university leaders were planning on returning to normalcy at some point in the upcoming months, but that looks increasingly unlikely. The keys to a successful academic future are in the hands of those educators who are willing to adapt and use innovative technology to their advantage. 

For the majority of universities the rapid transition into an entirely digital world came as a rude awakening. It showed just how fragile the framework of higher education could be without a contingency plan in place. Nevertheless, within days institutions like Drexel University and  Rowan University worked tirelessly to develop new strategies that would not only keep them afloat but would help unify the educational community.  

“Between the financial impact of COVID, the demographic changes, the situation in terms of bringing international students here, and with so many constraints on the system … institutions are really going to have to step back and begin to rethink their model because the sector is not going to be spared continued disruption going forward,” John Fry, president of Drexel University, told DrexelNOW. “More than ever, partnerships — or joint ventures, or mergers, or whatever you want to call them — are the way to go. I think the sector is going to see an almost healthcare system-like response to what’s going on. Healthcare started on its own consolidation and rethinking its model decades ago and it’s obviously still in the middle of it. I think it’s time for higher ed to go through the same types of dynamic changes. I think you’re going to see fewer institutions. I think you’re going to see more networks of institutions. I think you’ll see more hybrid, more online. Hopefully we keep face to face, but that’s just part of what we do.

As Fry mentioned, in the years to come, almost the entirety of higher education’s traditional model could be shifted, not only the logistics concerning profitability but also the student’s overall learning experience. Despite implementations caused by COVID-19, it seems as if a new institutional network was inevitable. Even before the recent pandemic, consumers have been transitioning into the digital realm. Students and parents had started craving alternative options for higher education that involve more flexibility, innovative delivery models and seamless transitions between face to face lectures and online learning. 

Universities are starting to require students to download applications like the DUO, a two-factor authentication system, that helps with the onboarding process. The software works with third-party technology providers to verify a student’s identity. Biometric tools, commonly used by financial technology corporations, are also gaining popularity in this space. “New users will now be asked to take selfies before uploading them to the (UK fintech company) Curve platform alongside pictures of their driver’s license, passport or other official ID documents. FinTech will then use its partner’s biometric capabilities to compare the two images and verify potential customers’ identities,” according to PYMNTS, a B2B platform for the payments industry. 

During this period of evolution, sound insights and collaboration between the public and university leaders will be pivotal for the education sector’s success. To learn more about the future of education in South Jersey, register now for the Invest:South Jersey 2020 Virtual Launch Conference. The conference takes place on Oct. 8 at 11:30 a.m. The virtual conference will feature two robust panels, including “Innovation and adaptation: What this could mean for education post-pandemic,” moderated by Marlene Asselta, president of Southern New Jersey Development Council, and featuring Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College of South Jersey, Monica Adya, president of Rutgers School of Business at Camden, and Barbara Gaba, president of Atlantic Cape Community College. 

To learn more, visit:

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_z34pLBUwQlSCObV80dyE7w

Face Off: Adaptability is par for the course for these development leaders

Face Off: Adaptability is par for the course for these development leaders

By: Max Crampton Thomas

Patrick Lee

Andrew Burnett

3 min read August 2020 Although there have been major roadblocks stemming from the pandemic that have created some slowdown, development in South Florida has continued to show a steadfast resilience and adaptability as projects around the region have remained on a path toward completion. For companies within the construction and development sectors, there is an understanding that being adaptable to the communities’ changing needs is just par for the course. While the future may be uncertain, it’s important to keep a cautiously optimistic attitude. Invest: spoke with both Shorecrest Construction President Patrick Lee and Senior Principal for Stantec Andrew Burnett about their companies’ major developmental successes over the last year, the constantly shifting industry landscape and their best estimations of what the future may hold. 

What are some recent landmarks for your business in the Miami-Dade region? 

Patrick Lee: The main markets Shorecrest Construction focuses on are hospitality, boutique commercial and luxury residential. In the last few years, all of these markets have been extremely strong. We just completed the renovation of the Soho Beach House in Miami Beach, which included the refreshment of guestrooms and suites, bar areas and gym to keep guests engaged and coming back. In luxury residential, a mainstay market for us, we build high-end homes on the water and complete condo interiors in some of the most prominent South Florida neighborhoods. Shorecrest works closely with well-known architects and designers to bring their concepts to life. We just finished the penthouse at the Four Seasons Surf Club designed by Holly Hunt. In the last few years, we have gotten a stronger foothold in those markets.

Andrew Burnett: Recent landmark projects in full swing include Wynwood Square, a 12-story mixed-use facility that includes apartments and retail space; the 30-story YotelPAD Miami condo and hotel project under construction; and a 43-story Luma tower in Miami’s Worldcenter. And there are a lot of new projects to be announced soon and currently coming on board. Each asset within our portfolio contributes to our growth in the creative services space, beyond architecture and interior design, but also engineering and resilience. We think beyond traditional physical traits and focus on how our vast team builds our communities and what we create so there is continuity in our lives and the spaces we inhabit and to ensure that we protect diversity and creative thinking. We call it cultural resilience. 

Have you seen more cognizant efforts toward building for the future with sustainability in mind? 

Lee:  From a climate change perspective, we have been building at a higher elevation, which has been mostly code-driven. Having said that, we have worked on projects where our client has voluntarily built higher than the codes require. Miami Beach has been extremely aggressive in its efforts to raise sea walls to deal with issues stemming from sea level rise. As far as our clients, everybody is technologically savvy, so a lot of the smart home amenities that were reserved for the elite level of homes are becoming a more common feature in homes. We find a lot of our younger clients, in particular, prefer that kind of addition.

Burnett: There is a significant level of agreement across the industry related to what we are facing and where we need to go. It is only a matter of how and there are varying perspectives to harness. Our government agencies, utilities, partners, clients, insurance agencies and lenders all commonly understand the need to mitigate prevalent risks and maintain our quality of life. There is power in the collective movement and I am optimistic about our future and path. 

What does the rest of the year look like for your company?

Lee: Shorecrest has a couple of projects that will still happen as well as some ongoing projects that are still running, including a condominium at the Continuum South Beach and several single-family residences in South Florida. We have two luxury clubs and restaurants right on Miami Beach and the owners of those projects are still very bullish on the construction. I think there will be more of an influx of people who have been coming into Miami from the Northeast because they no longer want to live in such dense cities and prefer to live in a place like Florida. I predict that there will be a recovery in Miami relatively quickly. 

Burnett: We have been quite busy, which is a reflection of the busy private development market. Projects are moving forward and the entire development community is gearing up for when the play button is pressed. In 2009, during the H1N1 outbreak, we established a pandemic committee, granting us an effective way to respond quickly to the pandemic and set up a remote work setting. Fast forward to today: Our productivity levels have allowed us to meet established deadlines and keep projects moving forward, continuing business as usual. Our current outlook for 2021 does not project significant levels of interruption. We want to continue to support that in any way we can. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.stantec.com/en

https://shorecrestgc.com/

 

 

Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

By: Felipe Rivas

5 min read August 2020 — The coronavirus pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of health, wellness, the essentiality of work, and the innovation that is possible in the midst of a constantly changing landscape. The global pandemic also shed light on the need for businesses and companies to ramp up their sustainability efforts, reduce their carbon footprints, support green initiatives and leave the world a better, cleaner place for future generations. In Palm Beach County, from the air to the ocean, local entrepreneurs are working hard to innovate in an effort to preserve the health of the planet in South Florida and beyond. 

For the past two years, local Palm Beach County resident and entrepreneur Tim Sperry has toiled to transform the ubiquity of paint into an air purifying instrument. His company, Smog Armor, is a solutions provider keenly focused on ending air pollution. With its slogan, “We innovate, you improve,” Smog Armor is committed to helping business owners and residents improve the air quality around them in an effort to eradicate air pollution. 

More than an eco-friendly paint, Smog Armor produces a water-based paint that is nontoxic, free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and infused with enhanced zeolite minerals for maximum absorption of air pollutants. Sperry’s patented process is optimal for reducing air pollution for up to five years depending on the condition of the environment it is painted in. Multiple independent testing has shown Smog Armor paint to reduce 95.1% of indoor air pollution in one hour, while its Green Wise certification ensures it has zero VOCs. 

With a background in real estate and business, and a consuming passion for entrepreneurship and preservation of nature and environment, Sperry transitioned from a life as a restauranteur to a biotech entrepreneur. “I needed to come up with something that I was passionate about, fulfilled by. With my love for nature, I wanted to find a way to help nature and do something that I really enjoyed doing,” Sperry told Invest: Palm Beach. As someone with a sensitive respiratory system, he knew helping reduce air pollution would be the main path in his journey to innovation and preserving the environment. 

His journey began by attempting to reduce vehicle carbon emissions because at that time “that’s what I saw,” he said. He spent months on end researching the dense, esoteric, chemistry-related literature revolving around air pollution and efforts to reduce it. “I essentially became a self-taught chemist,” he said. “I had two computers open. One with the research, and another to decipher those readings.” Time and time again he read about zeolite, a negatively charged mineral that is extremely effective at trapping carbon emissions and airborne pollutants. He designed a series of exhaust tips infused with zeolite aimed at directly reducing CO₂ emissions from cars, conducting and measuring air quality with and without the specialty exhaust tip. His exhaust tips proved to reduce car emissions by as much as 80 to 90 percent, he said. But after driving around for a while with the specialty exhaust tip, he realized that the system was impractical for the average consumer because the tips would constantly fall off and would become saturated after a few months of use. After going back to the drawing board, his light bulb moment came when he considered replicating this process with paint rather than the exhaust tips.

“At that point, I had to try something new,” he said. “Everyone uses paint, so I am not teaching people new habits.” After months of researching the proper paint manufacturers, honing the formula and testing the air purification efficacy of the paint, Smog Armor was ready to cover the walls of commercial and residential buildings and beyond. Local hotels have already used Smog Armor paint to improve consumer confidence in the coronavirus landscape, Sperry said. On the community outreach end of the spectrum, the company has tapped into the power of the arts, collaborating with nonprofit organizations to create impactful murals that purify the air of their local surroundings. To put it in perspective, three gallons of Smog Armor paint will remove as much CO₂ as one adult tree does in an entire year, Sperry said. For Sperry, giving back to the community via the art installations, for example, while advocating for a more sustainable future is the ultimate goal. “We have seen a spike in what we are doing because of all that is going on. We’ve got some amazing collaborations, working with amazing artists and companies, that are interested in showing that they are improving customer experience while building customer confidence and showing that they care about the environment in a public way,” he said. 

Similar to Sperry, two Florida Atlantic University alumni and entrepreneurs are on a mission to end plastic pollution in the ocean. Docked at Florida Atlantic University’s Research Park, 4ocean is a public benefit corporation founded by Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze. 4ocean’s mission is to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis through global cleanup operations and a variety of methods that help stop plastic pollution at its source. In March, the company relocated it’s corporate headquarters to FAU’s Research Park. 

Through it’s “One Pound, One Promise,” 4oceans supports its efforts from the sale of bracelets, apparel and other products made from recycling recovered materials. Each product purchased removes one pound of trash from oceans and coastlines. To date, the company has recovered more than 10 million pounds of ocean plastic and trash, according to the company’s tracker, found on its website.

“Partnerships like this are extremely important in advancing our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis,” said Director of Operations Desmond Reese in a press release related to its move to FAU. The Research Park at FAU was the ideal location for future growth and innovation because it offers an opportunity to collaborate with FAU’s faculty and students on research and development, Reese said. 

FAU’s College of Engineering & Computer Science will work with 4ocean on several projects, such as developing enhanced methodologies to track ocean cleanup volumes in real time, diving deeper to understand the impact of cleaning waste from specific coastal and river outflow locations, developing additional cleanup operation tools and increasing its efficiency at interruption, capture and prevention of ocean inflow waste in remote regions while also developing datasets and tracking models.

“The arrival of 4ocean is very exciting,” Research Park President Andrew Duffell said in a press release. “It offers real-world research opportunities for both the faculty and students at FAU who can see how two of their fellow alumni are making a positive impact on our environment through entrepreneurship.”

For more information, visit:

https://www.smogarmor.com/breathe-cb

https://www.4ocean.com/

Ghost kitchens very much alive in South Florida

Ghost kitchens very much alive in South Florida

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read August 2020  — The digital age means consumers can enjoy a restaurant experience without leaving the comfort of their own home. Even before COVID-19, people appreciated the convenience of having their food delivered. An estimated 44 million Americans use food carrier apps like UberEats and GrubHub every year, according to EMarketer. To feed the demand for more food delivery options, ghost kitchens, also known as virtual restaurants, have started to emerge. 

Ghost kitchens are similar to traditional restaurants except for the fact that they don’t technically have an official location. Cloud kitchens can be established almost anywhere that has running water and electricity. Warehouses, food trucks or other large commercial spaces are typically the most popular locations for virtual restaurants to set up shop.

Establishing a virtual eatery has become a lucrative business for not only inspiring restaurant owners but for real estate investors as well. Early this year, Simon Property Group partnered with SBE Entertainment Group to develop around 200 ghost kitchens in vacant retail spaces, according to The Wall Street Journal. Once furnished with proper kitchen equipment, spaces can be leased out to chefs and small-business owners to make their culinary dreams a reality. 

“We expect in the current pandemic we’ll see more of this repurposing; real estate operators doing anything they can to drive revenue from their existing properties. Likewise, we’re going to see a lot of new operators looking to fill the void with cheaper concepts … more delivery-friendly concepts that require less capital up front,” Michael Schaefer, global lead for food and beverage at Euromonitor International, told Restaurant Dive.

Real estate developers using large abandoned buildings offer all parties involved a chance to make money. Not having a traditional brick and mortar location saves restaurant owners thousands of dollars in rent each month. “It could literally be a third or less of what you might otherwise be paying with a traditional lease. These kitchens are not just for you; there are other people using them, so the costs are spread for the owner,” Herman R. Lipkis, a Fort Lauderdale-based attorney for Holland & Knight LLP, told RestaurantOwner.

For one ghost kitchen, having the option to save money on rent gave its owner the leg up he needed to launch a physical version of his virtual brand off of N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.

Brian Peter, a virtual restaurateur, originally owned and operated a traditional restaurant. However, low sales and even lower profit margins left him no other option but to close his doors. Fortunately for Peter he was able to pivot and shift his focus to delivery. Doing so, he was able to become profitable enough to launch his virtual brand, Wicked Cheesesteaks, Pizza and Wings, into a physical sit-down restaurant. “After trying and trying, we finally arrived … All the food is still on food-delivery apps but now we have a true brick-and-mortar,” Peter told the Sun Sentinel

Even though the pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the hospitality industry, physical restaurants don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Nevertheless, ghost kitchens and food delivery apps are the hottests trends in the food industry. As the world continues to evolve digitally so does the typical restaurant experience. “In the future, a more robust ghost kitchen market could also usher in advanced restaurant automation,” Schaefer told Restaurant Dive. “In five to 10 years, this shift could translate to full automation for the production of certain menu items, like pizza, ramen or high-end coffee, to drive speed of service and lower food production costs.” 

Industrial investors eager to pounce on faltering retail properties

Industrial investors eager to pounce on faltering retail properties

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read August 2020 — Before April, e-commerce was already a booming business but COVID-19 has skyrocketed digital commercial transactions to a whole new level. Despite the current flash recession, the demand for industrial real estate has grown in almost every market. As a result, industrial real estate investors are eager to pounce on faltering hospitality and retail properties. Vacant or unprofitable large-acre facilities are being eyed up as potential warehouses and distribution centers. 

Businesses like hotels, theme parks, restaurants and others in the hospitality industry have taken the greatest hit financially among all major sectors. In Orlando, tourism disparities are now trickling down to those industrial companies that succor these industries. “Orlando’s weakness is that we’re a community built on tourism and convention services. When those industries suffer, typically our market suffers too,” Bo Bradford, industrial expert and co-president of Lee & Associates Central Florida, told Orlando Business Journal

However, with every crisis comes opportunity. If building vacancies do start to emerge as a result of the current economic slowdown it will give new operations a chance to plant roots in Orlando’s limited industrial market. One example is the area around the Orlando airport. In July, two flex industrial warehouses were proposed on 61.8 vacant acres at 6249 S. Goldenrod Road, according to the Orlando Business Journal. Orlando Office Center LLC are the property owners and Kelly Collins & Gentry Inc. are reported to be the project engineers. 

The increase in demand for industrial properties is making real estate investment companies get creative. Simon Property Group Inc. is considering converting vacant Sears and JCPenney stores into distribution centers, according to the Orlando Business Journal. However, in early June, the group decided not to proceed with an agreement with Taubman Centers that could have added various retail properties to its portfolio. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a uniquely material and disproportionate effect on Taubman compared with other participants in the retail real estate industry,” Simon Property Group said in a press release. The real estate investment company has four properties in Orlando and if it does decide to transform even one of its properties into an industrial building, it could be a win-win for both parties involved in the transaction. 

Since the pandemic began, retail stores have suffered as more and more people shift to online shopping. Within a few years, traditional malls and outlet stores could become a thing of the past. For companies like Amazon, large vacant retail properties provide vital space in a limited market. 

Face Off: Business schools tackle the challenges in a changed education landscape

Face Off: Business schools tackle the challenges in a changed education landscape

By: Max Crampton Thomas

4 min read July 2020 Higher education in Miami is using the COVID-19 crisis to come out stronger on the other end. John Quelch, dean of the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School, discusses what that means and also talks about the post-pandemic landscape for higher education in an interview with Invest:. Florida International University (FIU) College of Business dean Joanne Li also spoke with Invest:, touching on the growing importance of online education, and what makes its new DBA program a game-changer.

How has your school continued to sustain growth in enrollment and influence?

John Quelch: The increasing strength of the University of Miami brand is one factor. We are witnessing a sizable surge in 2020 undergraduate enrollments at the university level and at the school. A second factor is the vote of confidence provided by the $100-million naming gift we received from Patti and Allan Herbert last year. Third is the global recognition and attractiveness of Miami as a place to study plus our beautiful, spacious and self-contained Coral Gables campus. Fourth, from a health and safety perspective, many parents see our campus as preferable to the congested, urban campuses of many universities in the Northeast.

 Most important though is the quality and dedication of our research and teaching faculty, and the fact that we offer more degree programs that are in the sweet spot of what people are looking for. Our sustainable business MS degree is seeing a 25% enrollment increase for 2020. No matter the industry, everyone agrees that technology and analytics are increasingly important for success. Our MS in business analytics degree, recently ranked No. 8 in the world alongside Duke, is able to place almost all its students in capstone projects, internships or full-time employment, even in this challenging environment. In addition to our redesigned full-time MBA, another important degree program is our MS in finance, which supplies a flow of talent to the wealth management, private equity and venture capital firms coming into the Miami area.

How have you approached online education?

Joanne Li:  Eight or nine months prior to COVID-19, FIU Business expanded its offering strategically and methodically. By spring 2021, FIU Business will offer 10 online programs that have a substantial market space. FIU was one of the first adopters of online education, which began more than two decades ago. Now, we see growing demand for this kind of degree, especially as FIU has been diversifying its student population more and more. As a state university, we are expected to offer degrees aligned with market needs.

On an undergraduate level, we are the leader among all colleges within FIU in providing online education; of all the courses we offer, 40% are considered online education. The goal is to allow a more agile learning model for the student and to meet the student’s needs. Most of our student body is a 21st century workforce, who work or take internships while studying. 

We launched our Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in 2018. We are one of only three state universities in Florida offering this degree. This program targets candidates who already made it to a C-Suite level and yearn for higher levels of business education. Since we accepted our first cohort, the program has been extremely successful, and it is a new trend for business education. Many universities across the globe have been talking about this need but are unsure about implementation. Before COVID-19, FIU Business had already become even more attuned to the business environment and needs of the candidate.

This model is often perceived as a direct competitor for many often expensive and time-consuming full-time MBA programs, especially for candidates who already have been integrated into the working world. The DBA also feeds into this new trend of a stackable, specialized master’s degree. It is a hybrid model that allows students to continue with their careers while studying. Our responses have been timely and position the college to pivot and prepare for the next wave of demand in the market.

What impact will the pandemic have on the education sector or on your institution in the near term? 

Quelch: Overall, I expect many colleges and smaller universities to be financially challenged and forced to merge or go out of business. The University of Miami is scheduled to open on Aug. 17, 2020. We are fortunate and reassured to have a global public health expert as president of the University of Miami. To navigate the current challenges, any university needs to see a high level of community commitment from students, faculty and staff. All of us are going to have to wear masks, follow physical distancing guidelines, be disciplined and set a good example.  We are confident that the strength of the University of Miami community is such that people will endure personal inconvenience for the common good.

Li: By Aug. 24, FIU is scheduled to start repopulating the campus with the four adapted teaching modalities: face to face, online, hybrid and synchronized remote learning, which was introduced in March. FIU Business set out four guiding principles in May. The first is that we will transition our constituency back to normalcy to the best of our ability. The second is that we will honor the teaching modality as we marketed and advertised it, as far as we can. Students can choose to rotate from face-to-face to remote or they can be designated as a remote student through a hybrid model or they can select a fully online format. The third principle is maintaining the use of the classroom and we will take responsibility for making sure that students always have the right tools. The last principle is that we will always consider alternative testing as a result of this pandemic. Certainly, we are still in a very fluid situation but having a plan allows us to prepare for scenarios.

It is important that we retain students and they stay in school. This is a very difficult time for students as many of them or members of their families lost their jobs. To survive this lockdown, everybody has to chip in, and we allocated some of our CARES Act funds to provide financial support.

How do you balance face-to-face education with technology and virtual learning and what does this mean for higher education?

Quelch: The need to switch to virtual teaching to deliver our spring semester courses was not as disruptive as I expected. We all pulled together and did pretty well, though we must improve our online teaching skills further as student expectations will be higher when we reconvene in the fall. We completed our tenure-track hiring early in the year so we will have five new tenure-track professors joining us in the fall.

The area where we are having to do the most reinvention is non-degree executive education. We had approximately $1 million worth in contracts that had to be postponed. We are exploring how to move from a 100% face-to-face delivery proposition to a value-added proposition that includes a more blended solution, often with modular engagement. We are breaking programs into bite-sized learning modules that can be delivered virtually over a week, a month or a couple of months.

Regarding our graduate and undergraduate programs, the challenge as we move into the next semester is to figure out how to best leverage our physical space on campus to maximize the percentage of course delivery that can be face-to-face. We hope to deliver a hybrid solution, balancing face-to-face and online modalities, dividing classes into subgroups to insure physical distancing. We have not seen reductions in applications; in fact, at the graduate level, we have seen a strong uptick, particularly in applications to our online and full-time MBA programs.

Li: We conducted a student survey during the COVID-19 changes, asking about home and education arrangements. Many said they would like to come back and interact with their professors and fellow classmates. This means we have to be better in being learner centric. We need to ensure student learning takes place and student success is achievable regardless of the delivery method. We can do this by making the environment a lot more conducive for the learner. We need to make discussions meaningful on an online platform. At FIU Business, we intend to accommodate students who prefer to show up in person as well as those who want to remain remote. We will vastly implement technology, both hardware and software, to encourage the interactions. The technology is not new, but the teaching pedagogy and implementation are. Now, there is no excuse. We cannot unlearn the lockdown, so we may as well make ourselves very good at adapting. This is a defining moment for higher education.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://business.fiu.edu/

 

https://www.bus.miami.edu/

 

 

How the hospitality industry is staying afloat during the flash recession

How the hospitality industry is staying afloat during the flash recession

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read FORT LAUDERDALE — The hospitality sector is a vital factor in South Florida’s economy. Around 1.3 million Floridians have jobs related to the tourism industry, which contributes $85.9 billion of the state’s GDP, according to A Banner Year for Florida Tourism Performance. On April 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay at home order that forced nonessential businesses like restaurants, hotels and shopping centers to close their doors. Within days of the shut down, an estimated 1.2 million people lost their jobs and more than 1.5 million unemployment claims were filed, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

 Although Broward County is a few weeks into phase one of reopening, uncertainty still looms. However, it has become apparent that the hospitality industry is doing everything in its power to stay afloat during the flash recession. The hospitality industry has endured a difficult four months and although it is making strides, no one knows how long it’s going to take for it to make a full recovery. 

Many industry leaders speculate that normal life won’t resume until a vaccine for the virus is discovered and easily accessible to the masses. The pharmaceutical industry indicates that a cure for COVID-19 could take years. In the meantime, businesses are having to come up with innovative ways to stay profitable. Unlike other sectors of the economy like technology and banking, the hospitality industry relies heavily on face-to-face interaction and physical guest services. “The hospitality industry will have to learn to function in a way not seen before. As the relationship between each brand and consumer starts by building trust, regaining customer confidence will be the first step in overcoming the crisis. Strict sanitary and hygiene measures will need to be applied, with new practices put in place to monitor and control the environment in which the business takes place,” Hassan Djeebet, food and beverage manager for Les Roches Marbella told hospitalitynet. 

Being transparent with guests will become even more important during the transition into a post-pandemic world. Managers will have to make their workers feel just as safe as their customers to ensure an overall positive guest experience. Although Broward County is just a few weeks into its phase one reopening plan, restaurant owners have noticed more and more people venturing out to indulge in their favorite food and drinks. “Eating outside is less risky than eating inside, if everybody is six feet apart and the wait staff are all wearing masks. That keeps the risk as low as it can be,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, told CNN Travel. 

Some argue one brightside to the pandemic is the emergence of new innovations in the hospitality industry. Many restaurants have adopted new technologies to ensure the customer experience is as hands free as possible. For example, instead of having a physical menu, restaurants are offering digital menus that can be accessed by scanning a QR code. Other innovations include artificial intelligence systems like FAQ bots to answer customer questions, virtual tours, and smart amenities like voice-controlled rooms and facial recognition. It’s safe to say that the pandemic has pushed businesses out of their comfort zones. However, as a result, easier and more efficient ways of doing things have surfaced. Some industry leaders even go so far as to say that the pandemic has propelled them at least five years into the future. 

 

 

Real estate development is booming in Fort Lauderdale

Real estate development is booming in Fort Lauderdale

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read –  Real estate development in Fort Lauderdale is getting a jolt of confidence despite the lingering impact of COVID-19. On March 24, a majority of businesses were forced to shut down after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a statewide shelter-in-place order. However, construction companies, hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations and other essential businesses were allowed to carry on with work as usual.

 

Florida is just one of several states that allowed construction to continue despite nationwide shutdowns. Similar to many other regions in the area, development is a vital part of Fort Lauderdale’s economy. The construction industry is projected to have the largest industry increase in employment from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

A strong signal of the confidence in the market is a recent move by Oko Group, an international real estate development firm founded by Vladislav Doronin. It is the first company to close a large deal since the beginning of COVID-19. The firm recently purchased 6.68 acres of land east of the county courthouse in Downtown Fort Lauderdale for $62.59 million. “Oko Group is excited to expand its portfolio of South Florida real estate with the acquisition of a mixed-use development site in the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s urban core,” the developer said in a statement reported by South Florida Business Journal. “The Oko Group team, led by Doronin, now looks forward to working with the city of Fort Lauderdale to finalize plans for an exceptional development that will help to further transform the Downtown district while adding significant amenities for nearby residents and businesses.”

The majority of developments in the pipeline for Fort Lauderdale will most likely be residential. Retail and office real estate have proven themselves to be the weakest sectors in the market during the pandemic. “Prior to COVID-19, South Florida’s real estate sector was very strong, propelled by the demand and low interest rates. I think the commercial office market may see a bit of a correction. So many people are working from home and I imagine that most of them are going to continue to do that the rest of the year. I think business owners are getting more comfortable allowing their employees to work remotely. So far, the industrial and residential markets have proven themselves to be the strongest sectors in the real estate industry during the pandemic. I don’t think we’ll see any correction there. Currently, at Touchstone Webb Realty Company, we are watching retail and commercial as we move forward. We think it is going to take a good year before we see this sector begin to correct. We are still purchasing industrial and flex spaces for our clients,” Susan Thomas, president of Touchstone Webb Realty Company, told Invest: Palm Beach.

As Thomas mentioned, CDC regulations like social distancing have compelled more people to want to work from home. As a result, business owners could require less office space. Fairfield Cypress Creek is just one example of this trend. The new mixed-use project is currently underway between 6500 and 6520 N. Andrews Ave. The land which was originally occupied by office buildings will now hold 295 residential units, shops and restaurants. A new downtown could be another exciting project on the horizon for Broward County. Broward is recruiting a large company to relocate to the 140 acres next to the Everglades in Sunrise. “It’s one of the last few pieces you could make a statement. We really want to market this site internationally, not just nationally,” County Manager Bertha told the Sun Sentinel. 

 

 

The Post-Pandemic City

The Post-Pandemic City

By: Abby Melone, President & CEO, Capital Analytics

It’s a truism in today’s hyper-connected world that people go where the jobs are, more so now than ever before. But what happens when your job suddenly can be done from anywhere?

 

The 19th century ushered in the first and second Industrial Revolutions that saw more and more people move to urban environments, precisely because that’s where the jobs were. In the United States, the rise of manufacturing opened a new world of employment possibilities, pushing people from the farm to the factory. It’s a push that in one way or another continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. The result is seen today in the population densities that cram big cities from coast to coast, border to border.

According to the United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects report and the website Our World in Data, the world crossed over in 2007. That’s the fist year the number of people living in urban areas rose above the number living in rural areas (3.35 billion versus 3.33 billion). In the United States, around 82.3% of the population lives in urban areas, according to the World Bank. Growth trajectories project a steady increase in urbanization as far out as 2050. 

Today, the millennial generation is changing the character of urbanization by spearheading the live-work-play ethos. This generation prefers to skirt the traffic jams and live and play near where they work. The goal to have it all close by has given rise to the mixed-use building concept that puts everything – your living options, your entertainment choices and your shopping – all in one convenient location, which preferably, is near your workplace. 

It also means we are all living closer to each other in smaller and smaller spaces. That seemed to suit a lot of people just fine. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and all of sudden, none of that seemed fine at all.

The pandemic resulted in shelter-in-place orders that forced people to live 24 hours a day in their homes while also working from their home offices, if they had one, or their kitchen tables if they didn’t. The very idea of needing to go somewhere else to do your job turned out to be not so much of a necessity after all. In just a few months, priorities appear to have shifted. Now, many of us seem to crave space, the great outdoors, and we seem to be split 50-50 on whether we want to continue working from home, wherever we choose that to be, or prefer an official office setting, mostly for the socializing.

There is little doubt that the world has changed as a result of the pandemic. Most experts are puzzling on whether that change will last and just what our cities will look like as a result. The fact is, though, that change was already in play before COVID-19 hit.

My company focuses on nine major U.S. markets like Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia. We talk to industry and political leaders to understand the issues their communities face to gauge the direction in which they are moving. Today, everyone is talking about the pandemic’s impact on the retail sector, for example. Yet, e-commerce was already a thing before COVID-19. In 2019, a record 9,800 stores were shuttered, according to a Bloomberg report, with 25,000 closures expected in 2020 due to the coronavirus impact, the report said, citing Coresight Research. Yes, that’s a devastating impact, but the pandemic really has only accelerated the pace of implementation. It pushed more people online immediately, but those people were likely headed there anyway.

Many of the leaders we have spoken with during the pandemic agree that retail and commercial real estate was already undergoing a slowdown as industrial space to accommodate last-mile delivery for the Amazons of the world was booming. Many expect this trend will continue.

More importantly, what the pandemic has done has caused a rethink of priorities among individuals and it is this impact that will likely shape the post-pandemic city. Living in lockdown awakened people to the “smallness” of their space, forced on them by a combination of convenience and higher and higher housing prices in big cities. The median listing price for a home in Miami-Dade, for example, was $465,050 in May compared to the average U.S. listing price of $329,950, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Interestingly, population growth in Miami-Dade was already slowing as more people moved out, with escalating living costs among the factors. With the pandemic highlighting the risks of living so close together, will more people decide that farther away is not only cheaper, but safer?

Big city living will change in the post-pandemic world as social distancing forces “people places” like gyms and restaurants to accommodate lingering fears from the virus. Tens of thousands of small businesses have already closed down for good, clearly altering the very unique characteristics of cities that attracted people in the first place.

The biggest impact, however, will be on how – and where – jobs are done. Remote working is hear to stay in some form or another. Like the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, people will always go where the jobs are. For many, those jobs will now be done from home, which means that home can be virtually anywhere. It creates choice like never before, and this will dramatically alter the character, although not likely the course, of urbanization. That’s an important difference. 

Big cities have seen the ebbs and flows of population growth before and will likely see them again. Through it all, they have more often thrived than not. The post-pandemic city may look and feel a bit different – the way condo units are built, for example, may change to accommodate working from home, while adding elements like air filters to battle any future virus outbreak – and there may even be a greater push to the suburbs in the short term. Overall, however, continued urbanization likely will remain on the cards. If we’re lucky, there may just be a little more distance between all of us.