How Mack-Cali CEO is making health, wellness into top amenity in its properties

Gilmartin: ‘There isn't anything better you could give your employees than the comfort of knowing that they're healthy and well, and doing it at no cost to them’

MaryAnne Gilmartin was named interim CEO at Mack-Cali Realty Corp. at the end of July — or, when New Jersey was between surges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And, while Gilmartin says she has no desire to lose the interim tag (see story here), she has quickly jumped into the role — and has the company moving forward with a number of health and wellness initiatives in its buildings, including Harborside in Jersey City, perhaps the REIT’s biggest point of emphasis as it doubles down on urban office and multifamily.

MaryAnne Gilmartin. (File photo)

Sure, there’s the extra cleaning that all landlords are doing. But Gilmartin is looking to offer that deep cleaning to tenants, to have wellness companies as key tenants in mixed-use buildings (perhaps at a discount) and to have facilities that could give COVID tests (and perform other health care needs, such as physicals) on site.

“There isn’t anything better you could give your employees then the comfort of knowing that they’re healthy and well, and doing it at no cost to them,” she said.

Gilmartin spoke earlier this week on a CBRE lunch-and-learn hosted by Vice Chairman Jeffrey Dunne and Executive Vice President Jeremy Neuer. It was moderated by Mary Ann Tighe, CBRE’s CEO for the tri-state area.

Here’s a look at some of her thoughts on health and wellness in Mack-Cali buildings. Her answers are condensed for clarity and space:

On offering (extra) cleaning services

We obviously have been hyperfocused on cleanliness and sanitary measures inside of our office and residential buildings. But what Ed (Guiltanan, senior vice president of leasing) and I have realized is that the tenants are looking for protocols and they’re looking to understand best practices.

So, we’re putting together manuals for our residential portfolio and our commercial portfolio so people can understand exactly what that means. We’re also thinking of leveraging the fact that, if we’re cleaning our lobbies, elevators, common bathrooms, we should be offering the same upgraded services to the tenants themselves, because a lot of our tenants are now having to clean their own spaces above and beyond conditions and specs previously seen. We, as a landlord, should be offering that.

It might be important to offer that to the commercial users inside of our buildings. I think we’re going to want to provide an offering that’s going to be both delivering services that maybe we didn’t offer the tenants (previously), and then a wellness program.

On bringing testing to properties

Right now, during the pandemic, we’ve been bringing testing on-site. You can have COVID testing right in our offices, because we have a partnership with Hackensack Meridian (Health). It’s enormously convenient for people to know that the doctor will come to your office space.

We’re going to make that available to our customer base. I think that’s something we’re going to continue to do in the future. If testing is a fixture of the near-term, workplace environment, we’re going to make sure we deliver on that amenity.

On wellness as an amenity

People want a higher level of service. They want wellness, they want both private and public outdoor space that’s attractive and allows them to work in ways that are much more flexible than just sitting behind a computer all day.

We want to make sure that we have ambulatory care and clinic facilities right there within the Harborside campus so that you can go to the doctor and get your annual checkup without going back to Manhattan and seeing your doctor. Day care, fitness and food is what makes us tick. And, if you can have all of that at your fingertips, I think you’ve got something really special.

On attracting wellness companies

Because we control the environment, if I think we’re not going to drive rents in the retail because it’s much more important that we drive the rents upstairs, I can offer food and beverage operators, fitness companies, day care centers unbelievable value in the real estate — knowing that I’m not looking for the highest rent, I’m looking for those that are the best providers, and then I’ll get paid back on that investment on my commercial space upstairs, if that makes sense.

On capacity, property tech in residential

The tracking is pretty simple through turnstiles. We’re not doing anything more sophisticated than that, but we’re besieged by proptech companies that are coming in and showing us all the gizmos. And a lot of them are really priced competitively, so it’s a no-brainer to do some of this stuff.

On the (residential) side, to do touchless experiences from the moment you walk in the building to your apartment is easy to do. So, I think that’s the way of the future. Why are you touching things if you don’t need to, if it can be done through a mobile app? I think a lot of it in the homes and for residents is going to happen really quickly.

On capacity, property tech in commercial, office

I don’t think that the densities are really a big issue at Harborside, because the space has been industrial space in nature — lots of light, lots of air. We have really nice proportions in terms of the amount of dedicated space per employee.

We don’t have a lot to undo, relative to what’s happened in Manhattan. I think a feature of the future is that space will be much more generous. The days of packing (people) in like sardines? I think those days are behind us. I feel really confident that Mack-Cali doesn’t have a major new term in that in that respect, because the spaces are not overly dense to begin with.

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