A lot of press has already been devoted to potential opportunities for the owners of residential properties in the Philadelphia area as a result of to the Pope’s visit in late September 2015. Considering the projected amount of available hotel/motel accommodations–approximately 30,000 units–pales in comparison to the expected 2 million-plus visitors, homeowners have been encouraged to become “short term landlords” and rent all or part of their properties to individuals visiting Philadelphia to see the Pontiff.
With that said, there has been little coverage of the potential effect that all of these visitors will have on commercial/retail property owners…in particular, those with large public parking areas, such as shopping centers that lie right outside the city center. Just recently, Mayor Nutter’s office announced a “traffic box” with boundaries from 38th Street to the west, South Street to the south, the Delaware River to the east and Girard to Ridge to Spring Garden to the north.
Further, regardless of whether the visitors are getting around Philly by foot, car or mass transit, they will need somewhere to stay, as well as eat and shop. This means that hotel accommodations, restaurant reservations and general retail traffic will surely increase. Given these opportunities to service the 2 million-plus coming to see the Pontiff, owners of any commercial/retail properties and parking lots should keep the following in mind to effectively manage the masses:
Parking – Review the provisions of your existing leases that pertain to dealing with available parking for tenants and their customers. To ensure that you are in compliance with your lease, confirm that parking promised for the tenant’s customers is not used for this event. If a provision exists within your lease, try to take advantage of this opportunity by obtaining a waiver from your tenants that will enable you to use their parking spot(s) if they are planning to be gone the days the Pope is visiting.
Additionally, it may be worthwhile to send a letter to tenants to use only designated parking spaces/areas for themselves. An ounce of prevention can save you from the headache of a tenant trying to “sublease” such spaces to papal visitors, which would be in violation of the lease, and could result in the further loss of parking for customers that will be patronizing tenants and assure the landlord of future rent being paid.
In other words, if your tenant’s designated customer parking areas have the same vehicles sitting there for some time in late September, consider reminding your tenant about the provisions of its lease prohibiting subleases without prior landlord consent. Additionally, consider putting up signage limiting parking to patrons of tenants, with the risk of being towed for non-compliance.
Buses – Owners within the Philadelphia city limits should be aware of a little-known provision of the Philadelphia Code (section 12-908 (1)), which prohibits the parking of busses “at any location other than at a designated bus stand.” As such, if a tour bus happens to pull in and take up parking spaces reserved for tenants and their customers, the property owner may be able to make a good case to the authorities to get it removed under this Code provision.
Trash – With the influx of tourists, there will also be byproducts, including trash. Have you spoken to your service providers to ensure that regular trash pickup will be enough? It may be worthwhile to temporarily increase trash pickup to ensure your center stays clean and safe.
Insurance – With the estimated 2 million-plus coming to the City of Brother Love, there are sure to be accidents. Checking on the extent of your insurance coverage now, as well as requesting evidence of your tenants’ coverage—most commercial leases permit the landlord to do so from time to time upon request—can help to manage concerns.
With some practical thinking and advance preparation, commercial/retail landlords can reap the benefits of the Pope’s visit and ensure that their centers can maximize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.