Owen Thomas, CEO of Boston Properties (NYSE: BXP), participated in a video interview in conjunction with Nareit’s REITweek: Virtual Investor Conference (held June 2-4).
Thomas said that because it was clear to Boston Properties at the outset of the pandemic that workers would eventually return to the office, the REIT began efforts on a robust health security strategic plan early into quarantine. The company formed a task force that included representatives from all Boston Properties departments and regions as well as external medical experts.
“Dr. Joseph Allen from Harvard’s School of Public Health is part of our committee because whatever solutions we came up with [for] customers, we wanted them grounded in science,” Thomas said.
He added that the resulting plan, shared with customers as well as externally on its website, highlights the high-level reopening issues Boston Properties will be dealing with post-pandemic, including cleaning and disinfecting of spaces; air recharging and filtering; spacing in common areas like lobbies and elevators; the importance of health screenings and PPE; and communication with customers.
Thomas said that two of the biggest changes he sees all office buildings making post-pandemic is an increased focus on healthy building policies surrounding light and air, and de-densification. He also discussed the regional differences that Boston Properties sees among its five markets.
“A big differentiator is going to be public transportation,” Thomas said. “[Workers] are going to feel comfortable in their office space, but they’re going to feel less comfortable getting to work.”
Thomas also noted that due to the pandemic, the U.S. is now in a recession, but that it will be a short-term event.
“I’m confident that the U.S. economy will recover and we’ll be back to a more typical growth environment [and] rents will come back,” he said.