By Alan Markoff
Many know Dart as a developer of environmentally sustainable buildings like those at its multi-purpose, master-planned development Camana Bay, as well as Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa and the adjoining Residences at Seafire.
Yet, for many business owners at those and other commercial properties in the Cayman Islands, Dart is thought of in different terms: as their landlord.
Having a reliable, professional and respectful landlord is always important for businesses, but having one that is compassionate and backed by a responsive staff can be just as crucial — especially in a time of crisis.
“We are committed to helping our tenants succeed,” says Dart’s Senior Vice President Property Management, Linda Podlaski. “When COVID-19 arrived in Cayman, we moved quickly to put measures in place to help them weather this difficult situation, as we recognised that helping them overcome the challenge means shared success for all.”
The task of supporting Dart’s tenants since the COVID-19 crisis began in Cayman was not an easy undertaking. In addition to the many commercial tenants in Camana Bay, Dart’s small but dedicated property management team supports commercial tenants at Regatta Office Park, the Flagship Building and Island Plaza in George Town, residential tenants at The Terraces at Camana Bay and The Residences at Seafire, and others.
Dart’s Property Portfolio Manager Marvin Cox says that during the government-mandated closure of offices, Dart’s staff worked to help tenants throughout the lockdown period.
“Our maintenance department secured exemption certificates and on-property accommodation for key technical staff,” he says. “Though office tenants were working from home, most relied on their servers and other office IT infrastructures to be able to work from home effectively.”
Dart’s essential staff and contractors — namely Hew’s Janitorial and Security Centre — on the ground were supported by a full complement of property and facility managers who were all working from home, Cox says.
“In addition to supporting technical teams and contractors, property management ensured regular communications with tenants to ensure they were aware of the various operational protocols that were being implemented on their properties and within their buildings.”
In addition, Cox says that where necessary — and with tenants’ permission — Dart staff conducted weekly inspections of commercial tenants’ premises on their behalf. In addition to doing all the normal lease administration functions, the property management team also facilitated conversations and virtual meetings with tenants in response to their almost daily questions, Cox says.
“At Regatta Office Park, the Royal Cayman Islands Police had to be fully supported as well,” Cox says.
Even before the Cayman Islands Government implemented measures in the third week of March to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Dart’s property management team had been preparing its own response, Cox says.
“Property Management had been alerted of SARS-CoV-2 through our professional affiliations with the Institute of Real Estate Management Association, Building Owners and Managers Association, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Institute of Facilities Management Association, all of which have a global footprint and presence in countries that were already impacted by the virus,” he says.
As soon as the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the Cayman Islands, the property management team acted.
“We promptly implemented a programme to install hand sanitisers in all building lobbies and increased cleaning and sanitisation frequencies ahead of the shut-down,” he says. “This protocol was maintained at our residences and at our commercial buildings during the lockdown in keeping with best-and-emerging industry practices and guidelines issued by Public Health Cayman.”
As the government allowed businesses to reopen on a phased plan, the property management team increased the cleaning and sanitisation protocols from twice daily prior to COVID-19 to cleaning and sanitising all common high-touch areas every two hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or until the amenity closed.
“High-touch areas include door handles and push-bars, handrails, the elevator keypad and cabin, faucets, toilets, countertops, tables and chairs,” Cox said. “This is in addition to our usual cleaning routines.”
Dart also installed appropriate signs strategically across its properties outlining protocols to observe in common areas, including a recommendation to wear masks in all indoor common areas, and limiting the number of persons in elevators.
“We also supported our retail tenants, who asked for help in complying with COVID-19 operational guidelines,” Cox says. “This included offering additional outdoor patio spaces at no cost and securing dedicated pick-up and delivery zones closest to their premise to make loading and pick-up for their customers more efficient.”
The work of Dart’s property management team helped the office tenants of Camana Bay.
Dart also assisted some tenants in a different way. The sudden closure of the port and airport, quickly followed by the mandated closure of businesses, caused hardship for some of Dart’s tenants, particularly the retail shops and those in the hospitality and tourism sectors. It also impacted some of the residential tenants financially.
“To help support retail tenants and others with sole or major reliance on Cayman’s tourism and hospitality sectors, Dart offered rent relief support to all,” Cox says. “This allowed our retail tenants to keep their staff and strategise on ways to adapt and emerge strong.”
One of the many tenants who was helped by Dart’s support of retail shops was Ian Dawson-James who, along with his wife Catherine, operates five shops in Camana Bay: Sand Angels, Little Angels, Activ Angels, Forever Summer and Riviera.
“I think I speak for all of us who received rent support when I say it took the pressure off,” says Dawson-James. “We’re a small business and we have to be concerned about cash flow. This enabled us to pay bills and our staff their full salaries and medical insurance.”
Dawson-James says the assistance not only showed the commitment of Dart as a landlord, but was also an indication of quality of the relationship between Dart and its tenants, which he views as a partnership.
“For us, it was a wonderful gesture to show their support for small businesses.”
About the author
Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for three years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 16 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. An avid baseball fan, Alan loves travelling but also schedules trips back home around catching a summer game or two with his home team, Cleveland Indians.