At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit workplaces emptied. More than two years later, filling office space remains a major challenge for commercial property companies.
For Lynette Boyle, director of Detroit-based Beanstalk Real Estate Solutions, dramatic stagnation has hit hard. Even as people gradually return to the office, occupancy rates are far from what they used to be – and there’s no way to know for sure if they’ll return to pre-March 2020 levels.
“I don’t have a magic crystal ball. Each will give you an opinion. I say we have to wait and see. This is uncharted territory,” Boyle said. “I really think the pandemic just accelerated what technology was already starting to deliver.”
Moving forward, Boyle’s company merged with Center City Properties, which was founded by Michael Martorelli and focuses on property management of primarily luxury and high-end apartments in Detroit. Together, the two companies have brought their expertise to the new joint venture, which will operate as Beanstalk, and have diversified their portfolios. Beanstalk gains better access to a growing residential market while Center City employees benefit from existing infrastructure for HR, benefits and training.
Although the merger is only a month old, the two say they’ve already learned from each other — especially when it comes to setting up places after a pandemic.
For example, Martorelli manages the new Woodward West Apartments in Midtown, where they’ve added community rooms and workspaces to most floors to allow residents to step out of their apartments and feel a sense of community with their fellow tenants. .
“Buildings are going to have to get a little more creative in their design or layout to appeal to these people who work differently,” Martorelli said. “And I think that’s going to benefit Detroit in a lot of ways because it will position us to be able to compete for a workforce that can work remotely.”
Boyle said she can take those examples that work for residential spaces and bring them to offices to keep people coming back.
“Commercial buildings…say, ‘OK, how can we get people to come back to the office?’ Let’s put movable furniture that can be repositioned in the lobby…community spaces in the building where you can have team meetings that are a little more fun,” she said. “Necessity is the mother of invention, so we’re seeing a lot more creativity in the construction environment.”
Learn more about Boyle and Martorelli as they chat:
- 1:15 – How the merger happened
- 4:20 – What the companies each bring to the merger
- 6:20 – What they’ve learned from each other so far
- 8:30 am – What has changed in office leases since the pandemic
- 11:35 – What this means for Detroit’s future
- 17:25 – How to take your place as a woman in the field of commercial real estate (period deleted)
- 19:05 – How their personal experiences impact how they define home
- 22:10 – Their biggest business failures and how they overcame them