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SL Green Announced COVID Testing Across NYC Portfolio -- The Future of CRE?

Apr 07, 2021 by Laura Agadoni
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With New York City in economic turmoil from lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that made the usually bustling Big Apple practically a ghost town, SL Green Realty Corp. (NYSE: SLG), the largest office landlord in Manhattan, has managed to keep all its office buildings open and accessible to tenants since June 2020 -- in the midst of the pandemic.

How SL Green kept buildings open

SL Green, since the coronavirus pandemic started, took measures to make its workplaces as safe as possible for workers. This office landlord -- with 900 tenants in 88 buildings totaling 38.2 million square feet -- put in place new policies and procedures that included the following:

  • A new entry experience: Social distancing was practiced and building capacity was capped at 50%. Masks were required, passive noninvasive temperature detection was implemented, and new signage detailing the new protocols was installed.
  • Hygiene protocols: Surfaces were disinfected and decontaminated in two stages, the latter using electrostatic fogging.
  • Delivery protocols were established.
  • HVAC and ventilation systems were upgraded.
  • Hands-free enhancements were installed.
  • Water is being tested annually.

The new plan for getting New Yorkers back

The new plan SL Green has for getting New Yorkers back in the office is to offer COVID-19 testing across its entire portfolio, making this the first portfolio-wide testing initiative in New York City. This program is slated to launch April 8 and will use 21 locations (200,000 square feet of space) to be used as temporary testing centers.

Testing is thought to be a critical tool used to control the spread of coronavirus. All SL Green tenants can receive testing to help instill confidence to return to the office. This expanded testing could be an important development, as New York office workers are currently the most resistant group to return to the office, and it's critical New Yorkers return to the office if there's to be a full recovery for the city and state.

SL Green will be using Mobile Health to conduct the COVID-19 testing. Mobile Health is an employee screening and occupational health provider that's been in business for 37 years.

The trouble New York is facing

The pandemic took an economic toll on the world, but some places fared better than others, depending on the reaction to the pandemic. New York City was not one of the cities that fared well. In September 2020, the unemployment rate in New York City was a whopping 16%, which was twice as high as the rest of America. Apartment vacancies rose above 5%, personal income tax revenue is predicted to drop by an astounding $2 billion, and many NYC businesses are wondering whether they'll need office space moving forward.

The Millionacres bottom line

Despite what most of New York City was doing during the pandemic, SL Green, by coming up with innovative ideas, managed to get workers to return to the office. If more workers return to an office managed by SL Green because of the measures it's taking, more office buildings might follow suit. Watch this one if you invest in office real estate investment trusts (REITs). It could be good news.

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LauraAgadoni has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.