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Managing the mix

Handling the challenges of mixed-use facility care

By Christie Campbell, ABM, IREM Chairman Level Partner
Scandinavian Architecture. Exterior Building In Aker Brygge

Have you created—or are you about to create—a new urban landmark? The challenges of building and maintaining a mixed-use property can be daunting. If you meet those challenges, you could end up with an award-winning, wildly popular, all-encompassing destination: restaurants, stores, offices, residences, movie theaters, perhaps event space and a rooftop mecca.

If the project entails redeveloping an historic building, preserving authenticity while focusing on environmental sustainability is a worthy goal. Even properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places can attain LEED certification with proper planning.

How to get the facility move-in ready

It’s about more than post-construction cleanup. How do you ensure a coordinated effort from Day One of a renovation to opening day? When the property is a hollowed-out building with extension cords and hanging light bulbs, that’s the time to consider bringing in an experienced facility services partner. They can take a lot of miscellaneous tasks off your hands, some of which might not even be on your radar. Ask them to do a walk-through with you to develop a list of needs during construction and a plan to ease postconstruction and ongoing maintenance. For example, you might want to have plumbing lines painted different colors to label their functions—later, plumbers will be able to do their jobs more easily.

You can expect the initial list to evolve as the project moves forward and other maintenance issues arise. Having another set of eyes looking out for the project from a facility services standpoint will give you peace of mind. A facility services partner can handle surprises, such as cleaning up debris and smoke damage caused by a fire on the loading dock, so that everything is neat and functional again as soon as possible.

Here are some of the various jobs you can outsource, preferably to one company to save you coordination efforts. You can then feel confident you will have a spick-and-span, well-functioning facility for its grand opening and beyond.

  • Floor and other hard-surface restoration
  • Concrete cleanup and sealing
  • Pressure washing: concrete, brick, parking lot, beams
  • Graffiti removal
  • Window washing
  • Interior and exterior painting
  • Parking lot striping
  • Carpet extraction and repair
  • Grout restoration
  • Restroom countertop polishing
  • Restroom acid washing
  • Minor plumbing repairs
  • Detailed cleaning
  • Emergency and accident cleanup

Establishing and reinforcing your brand

It’s important for a mixed-use property to define and maintain a uniform brand. Everything must be kept clean, beautiful, welcoming, safe, sustainable and functional. These days, the industrial look is popular: high, open ceilings, lots of stainless steel and glass, and reclaimed wood floors—all of which need special attention and tools to keep them spotless and prevent problems.

Because mixed use takes a multitalented facility services expert, you’ll want a partner with vast experience in many types of properties. Residences, retail and office space must be move-in ready. When leases expire and a prospective tenant wants to see a space, you’ll want paint touched up, floors mopped, surfaces dusted and miscellaneous repairs made. When you have special events pre- or post-opening, you might need extra staffing and valet services. In short, you’ll want a company with know-how and resources to handle daily tasks, special services, emergencies and sustainability efforts.

Consider your need for green cleaning, day porters, trash removal (including valet trash pickup for tenants), recycling, pressure washing, graffiti removal, periodic deep cleaning, painting, floor and carpet care and other services for any and all of the following areas, each with their idiosyncrasies:

  • Public restrooms
  • Food halls and courtyards
  • Stairwells and elevators
  • Offices
  • Residential elevators, hallways and lobbies
  • Rooftop spaces and ballrooms
  • Parking and loading docks
  • Exteriors, sidewalks and entrances

Teamwork and the customer experience

Your visitor/customer/tenant experience is paramount to a successful brand. From the moment people arrive, whether on foot, in cars or on public transit, they need to feel welcome and taken care of. Because many facility service workers are public facing, it’s important to hire people who care about service excellence, are proud of the property and feel part of its team. You and your provider both might want to interview those applicants. Besides job skills, the service staff need excellent social and communication skills. They serve as ambassadors who greet and direct visitors and embody your brand. Janitors who clean inside some of the offices must also be vetted for security. Because it’s important that service staff look the part, their uniforms should match the property’s brand.

As a property owner or manager, you can work with the service provider(s) to create a collaborative culture of “we’re all here for the same reason.” Team-building exercises, such as a trivia contest based on facts about the property, can be helpful to instill pride and a sense of ownership. Rewarding a can-do attitude encourages thinking outside the box.

With a large, diverse property, the whole facility needs to meld into one great experience for people, whether they are there daily, weekly or once a year. Mixed-use often means mega-public visibility, and people can be vocal when things go wrong. But with preplanning and attention to ongoing detailed maintenance, the word-of-mouth and user reviews will all be positive.

Journal of Property Management

Christie Campbell is regional sales director of business and industry for ABM, where she oversees revenue growth, expansion and retention across a 12-state region.

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