How CRE in Massachusetts Navigated a Year of Pandemic and Social Unrest

Industry Responded with Kindness, Creativity and Courage

By Tamara Small | The below was originally published in Banker & Tradesman on December 20, 2020.

This time last year, no one knew what 2020 would hold. Instead, as an industry we predicted an expansion of the office as a talent recruitment tool, fast-paced industrial growth, and a continued tightening of the housing market.  

While some of these predictions were accurate, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly turned others on their head. One thing is clear; 2020 drastically changed expectations and the way the world did business.  

Instrumental in COVID-19 Response 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Massachusetts, no one knew how to respond. Frontline workers, who are still risking their lives every day, did not have enough masks to do their jobs safely. Families were thrown into chaos – with kids home from school, online learning developing on the go, and jobs thrown into uncharted territory. And no one needs to be reminded of the stampede on basic necessities.  

Commercial real estate companies across the commonwealth rose to the occasion. Within days, JLL released a new platform to increase communications and resources between tenants and landlords. Within weeks, Federal Realty Investment Trust worked with the city of Somerville to bring a mask decontamination system to the Greater Boston area – which has been instrumental in providing health care professionals the clean, safe equipment they need. Boston Urban Partners started Family Meal, a six-episode series of live–streamed cooking classes with local, award winning chefs (including Jodie Adams and Andy Husbands) to raise money for No Kid Hungry. These are just a few of the extraordinary acts of company kindness we have seen. 

But that is not all. Automatic doors, new air filtration systems, hand sanitizer stations and socially distanced work areas have been implemented in office buildings and common areas. Residential property owners have taken the Boston Housing Stability Pledge to ensure resident safety during this public health crisis. Commercial owners worked with small businesses to help provide needed relief to survive this crisis. New platforms and protocols for curbside pickup, online and in-person shopping, and dining have all quickly been implemented and continually refined as new public health information becomes available. As CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, I am proud to represent an industry that stepped up in a global health crisis to do its part.  

Economic Development Becomes Economic Relief 

On March 4, Gov. Charlie Baker released his proposal for an economic development bill. Within weeks, it became clear that an economic relief bill would instead be required for Massachusetts’ businesses and residents – just one of many necessary legislative and executive actions.  

But in the background of COVID, the housing crisis deepened. An Act to Promote Housing Choices, which was originally filed by Baker and is now in conference committee, is targeted at lowering voting thresholds in key zoning votes, allowing for increased production of critically needed housing. If it does not pass, expect the production of housing to slow.  

The conversation around transportation changed in some ways, and in other ways not at all. Suddenly, with massively decreased ridership (and little-to-no road congestion), the MBTA was faced with enormous revenue shortfalls. Proposed service changes have been met with opposition, but a modified version of the changes was approved last week. It is clear that our overburdened system will continue to face tough choices into next year.   

What quickly became clear is that the uniqueness of this crisis requires a cautionary approach to policymaking to ensure there are no unintended consequences or long-term impediments to economic growth and stability. The only path to a sustainable recovery is to create a climate for job creation and economic opportunity for all. NAIOP will continue to work with policymakers to ensure thoughtful, practical economic relief is implemented.  

DEI Efforts Come to the Forefront 

In June, society’s attention finally focused on what we have collectively ignored for far too long – hundreds of years of brutality, racism, and inequity throughout the United States of America. While COVID-19 pushed us into unusual and unprecedented times, the systemic issues being protested were with us long before the pandemic.   

NAIOP asked its members and colleagues to listen, learn, engage their leadership and support MWBE businesses. We have seen member-companies like VHB quickly take action to communicate with their employees and the public about its commitment to continuing to be active participants in advancing racial justice and social equity – and it did not stop there.  

Industry conversations on successful diversity initiatives saw over 300 live virtual participants and over 200 after-event watches. More and more companies started reviewing their internal practices and the industry is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The time for real change is now.  

While 2020 was in many ways unexpected, CRE rose to the challenges faced by our communities, our colleagues, and our friends and family. While it is hard to know what 2021 has in store for us, we here at NAIOP know that CRE will continue to evolve and endure.  

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh Announces a City-Wide Rollback to Modified Phase II: Greater Boston Communities Expected to Follow Suit

Today, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the City of Boston will rollback to a modified Phase II based on the most recent public health metrics for a minimum of 3 weeks. In his announcement, Mayor Walsh also indicated that Lynn, Newton, Somerville, Brockton, Winthrop, and Arlington are moving forward with similar actions today. In the City of Boston, these actions go into effect on Wednesday, December 16.
Changes in this update include but are not limited to:

  • Museums, movie theaters, aquariums, and indoor event spaces will temporarily close to in-person use.
  • Indoor recreational and athletic facilities will close for general use.
  • Indoor facilities for lower contact activities will also temporarily close, including bowling alleys, batting cages, driving ranges, and rock climbing gyms.

Activities that continue as part of Phase II include:

  • Retail stores and personal services like hair salons and barber shops can remain open.
  • Office space will remain limited to 40% capacity.

Additionally, indoor dining at restaurants and bars may continue, with strict adherence to City Guidelines and State Sector Specific Protocols.

Recent Statewide Actions

As a reminder, last week Governor Baker announced a statewide rollback to Phase III, Step 1 in the Commonwealth’s Reopening Plan. In the Executive Order, Governor Baker also announced updates to the the protocols governing workspaces, restaurants and indoor dining, and office capacities. These requirements went into effect on Sunday, December 13.
Sector specific guidance has been updated. All information related to Massachusetts’ Reopening Plan can be found by visiting mass.gov/reopening.

NAIOP Massachusetts Honors JLL, Federal Realty, Bulfinch, VHB and Boston Urban Partners at Virtual Impact Awards 2021 Leadership Announced

2021 Leadership Announced

Needham, MA – Last night, NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, held the 2020 Virtual Impact Awards. The event was a celebration of NAIOP’s member companies that positively impacted communities across Massachusetts in response to the pandemic and responded to social and economic injustice.

Several local commercial real estate companies were honored, including Federal Realty Investment Trust, who was recognized in the Community Outreach category for its partnership with Mass General Brigham, Battelle and the City of Somerville to bring a mask decontamination system to the Greater Boston Area. JLL was recognized in the category of Landlord Support & Commercial/Residential Property Management for its digital campaign geared toward landlord and tenant clients. The ongoing program included providing compelling content on topics that help landlords and tenants navigate the current real estate environment including re-entry tools, business planning resources, research reports, and webinars. In the category of Employee Engagement, Bulfinch was honored for implementing new strategies to keep its team safe, healthy, connected and engaged. Since the pandemic began, Bulfinch held over 70 virtual meetings, check-ins and team events for employees, including wellness activities and virtual volunteering.

In addition, VHB was recognized in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Response category for its employee resource group, VHB IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance), which is focused on promoting an integrated approach to awareness, inclusiveness, openness, and diversity at VHB. Finally, in the Individual Impact category, Boston Urban Partners was honored for its unique Family Meal Series, six episodes of live stream cooking classes with local, award winning chefs that benefitted No Kid Hungry, a campaign designed to end childhood hunger.

The evening began with a brief Annual Meeting, where the Chapter named its 2021 Board Management Committee, led by Chair (and 2020 President) Leslie Cohen of Samuels & Associates and President Tom Andrews of Alexandria Real Estate Equities. Joining Cohen and Andrews on the Committee are Past Chairs Douglass Karp of New England Development, Ed Marsteiner of National Development and Sara Cassidy of AEW Capital Management, as well as President-Elect Jessica Hughes of Tishman Speyer, Treasurer Patrick McMahon of Federal Realty Investment Trust, and Secretary Kirk Sykes of Accordia Partners.

NAIOP Massachusetts also announced the 2021 nominees to the Chapter’s Board of Directors. William Kane of BioMed Realty, Katy O’Neil of Suffolk Construction Company, and David Madan of Boston Investmentsjoined the Boardwith terms expiring in 2023. James F. Carlin of Crosspoint Associates, Dennis Clarke of Cummings Properties, Abby Goldenfarb of Trinity Financial, Bryan Koop of Boston Properties, Maura Moffatt of Synergy Investments, Chad Remis of Oxford Properties Group, Kimberly Sherman Stamler of Related Beal, and James Tierney of JLL were all reappointed for three year terms.

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About NAIOP

NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, is the leading organization for developers, owners, and investors of office, research & development, industrial, mixed use, multifamily, retail, and institutional real estate in the Commonwealth. NAIOP advocates for policies that advance the commercial real estate industry while providing outstanding education and networking opportunities. For more information, visit www.naiopma.org.

Press Contact: Anastasia Nicolaou (nicolaou@naiopma.org)

COVID-19 Update: Governor Baker Announces Targeted Interventions Designed to #StopTheSpread

Earlier this afternoon, in light of the recent rise in infection rates of COVID-19 throughout the Commonwealth, Governor Baker announced several new restrictions and targeted interventions meant to #StopTheSpread.

Stay-At-Home Advisory Updated

The Department of Public Health has issued an updated stay-at-home advisory, asking all residents to stay at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. with exceptions for necessary activities, such as going to work or school.


Early Closure of Businesses and Activities

In order to ensure that individuals are back at their residence by 10 p.m., Governor Baker has issued a new executive order that requires a 9:30 p.m. closure of certain businesses. However, exemptions will be allowed, including allowing employees to conduct cleaning or stocking businesses overnight, and it does not pertain to construction, manufacturing or lab work. Supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, and retail stores will also be allowed to stay open after 9:30 p.m.

This order requires that:

– all indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, such as casinos, theaters and arcades, must be closed to the public by 9:30 p.m.

– restaurants must be closed for table service by 9:30 p.m., although takeout service will be allowed to continue.

– liquor stores and other retail establishments that sell alcohol must cease alcohol sales by 9:30 p.m. (but may continue to sell other products).

For a full list of businesses affected by this order, please click here.


Updated Gatherings Order

In addition to the new business requirements, the Baker-Polito Administration has updated the private gatherings restrictions in the new gatherings order. For private homes, a maximum of 10 people will be allowed indoors, 25 people outdoors. The limit on gatherings held in public spaces and at event venues (e.g. wedding venues) remains the same. All gatherings inside and outside must end by 9:30 p.m. to ensure individuals are in their own households by 10 p.m.


The new gatherings order also requires that organizers of gatherings report known positive COVID-19 cases to the local health department in that community and requires organizers to cooperate with contact tracing. The gatherings order authorizes continued enforcement by local health and police departments and specifies that fines for violating the gathering order will be $500 for each person above the limit at a particular gathering.


New Mask Wearing Guidelines and Requirements

Everyone over the age of 5 must now wear a face covering in public regardless of distance to other people. This means there are no longer exemptions or exceptions for when you can maintain social distance.


Additionally, while the revised order still allows for an exception for residents who cannot wear a face-covering due to a medical or disabling condition, it allows employers to require employees to provide proof of such a condition. It also allows schools to require that students participating in in-person learning provide proof of such a medical or disabling condition.

All of these measures will go into effect at 12:01am on Friday, November 6. Sector-by-sector guidance updates are anticipated to be released later this week.


NAIOP will continue to advocate for policies, Executive Orders and legislation that address how this public health crisis is affecting real estate and overall economic development. We are working on numerous initiatives. Please feel free to reach out to CEO Tamara Small or Government Affairs Associate Anastasia Nicolaou if you have any questions. 

COVID-19 Update: Governor Baker Announces Phase 3 Start Date, Amends E.O. Tolling State Permits; SJC Releases Updated Operations Order; DPU Begins Energy Relief Plan for C&I Customers; MBTA Announces Flex Pass Pilot

Governor Baker Announces Phase 3 Start Date

Today Governor Baker announced that Phase 3 will begin on Monday, July 6. While Phase 3 is anticipated to be in place until there is an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, Governor Baker indicated that Phase 3 will be implemented in two steps.

Businesses allowed to reopen at this point in Phase 3 include but are not limited to:

  • Fitness Centers and Health Clubs
  • Museums and Aquariums
  • Movie Theaters and Performance Halls (at limited capacity)
  • Casinos (with additional minimum protocols set by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission)

Additionally, the Baker-Polito Administration has updated the guidance related to gatherings. The new guidance related to indoor gatherings will allow eight people per 1000SF, with a maximum of 25 people. Outdoor enclosed gatherings will be limited to 25% of the capacity, with a maximum of 100 people. This updated guidance will be effective Monday, July 6, except for the City of Boston, where it will be implemented Monday, July 13. For all guidance, orders and updates related to the Commonwealth’s reopening plan please visit: www.mass.gov/reopening

Governor Baker Amends State Permit Tolling Order

This morning, Governor Baker signed an Executive Order rescinding and replacing his March 26 Order to suspend relevant permitting deadlines and extend out the validity of state permits.

Importantly, this updated order addressed NAIOP’s significant concerns with the previous order’s appeals language. In the updated order, any individual whose right to appeal would have expired between March 10, 2020 and July 1, 2020 shall have until August 10, 2020 to proceed with their appeal. Any person whose right to appeal expires after July 1, 2020 will be held to the regular or statutory deadline, or by August 10, 2020, whichever is later.

NAIOP advocated strongly for this Executive Order given the extraordinary impact of the previous order on projects throughout the Commonwealth, and we were pleased to see our concerns addressed in the final language. A huge thank you to the NAIOP members who provided their expertise and insight throughout this process.

SJC Releases Updated Order Regarding Court Operations

On June 24, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued an order further staying certain hearings and trials and limiting court house access until at least July 13, 2020. In addition, the order affirmed that there will be no further extensions of deadlines or civil statutes of limitations beyond June 30, 2020, “unless there is a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth and the SJC determines a new or extended tolling period is needed) and that appeal periods on local permits will begin to run on July 1, 2020.

DPU Begins Energy Relief Plan for Commercial and Industrial Customers

On June 26, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the commencement of a program designed to assist companies that have fallen into arrears on gas or electricity payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full implementation of the program will begin after the March 10 State of Emergency is lifted and current customer protections expire. The Customer Outreach Plan will consist of four phases. You can read the full order by clicking here. Any company having trouble paying their electric or gas bills due to COVID-19 should contact their distribution company for further information.

MBTA Announces Five-Day Flex Pass Pilot for Commuter Rail mTicket

Yesterday, July 1, the MBTA began the new Five-day Flex Pass on mTicket pilot, a program designed to allow greater flexibility for commuter rail passengers as employers and employees explore staggered schedules and telework policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilot will take place from July 1 – September 30, 2020 and is only available within the mTicket app. Once purchased, the Flex Pass provides five one-day passes that can be used at any time in a 30-day period. This pass, available for all zones and interzones, is a 10% discount when compared to five round-trip tickets.

COVID-19 Update: Governor Announces Reopening Plan – Construction Restarts and Office Space Reopening Standards Released

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration released its plan for reopening the Massachusetts Economy. Please visit mass.gov/reopening to review the full report, general business guidance, sector guidance, mandatory employer and worker posters, and FAQs on the 4-Phase Reopening Plan. In order to reopen, all businesses must develop a written COVID-19 Control Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Phase One will allow the following (with restrictions, some capacity limitations, staggered start):

  • On May 18: Essential businesses; Manufacturing; Construction
  • On May 25: Lab space; Office space (outside of Boston); Limited Personal Services (hair; pet grooming; car washes); Retail (remote fulfillment; curbside pick-up)
  • On June 1: Office space in Boston

Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks and could last longer depending upon public-health data.

All Construction Included in Phase 1 Reopening Announcement

Governor Baker announced that effective today all construction (including office, retail, etc.) will be allowed to proceed if the appropriate documentation and safety standards and guidance are in place (in addition to any local requirements or restrictions). 

In addition to the mandatory safety standards for all industries announced on May 11 regarding social distancing, hygiene, staffing and operations, and sanitization, the Baker-Polito Administration today released construction-specific mandatory safety standards and guidance. The requirements must be in place before reopening a site, and include but are not limited to:

  • Keeping all crews a minimum of six feet apart at all times to eliminate the potential of cross-contamination
  • No in-person meetings of more than 10 people
  • Where social distancing is impossible, employers will be required to supply PPE including, as appropriate, a standard face covering, gloves and eye protection.
  • The elimination of large gathering places on site such as shacks and break areas, allowing instead for small break areas with limited seating available to ensure social distancing.
  • The designation of a site-specific COVID-19 Officer (who may also be the Health and Safety Officer) for every site except for construction and remodeling work in one to three family residences. This Officer shall certify that the contractor and all subcontractors are in full compliance with the COVID-19 safety requirements for construction.

The construction-specific requirements and guidance allows cities and towns to require additional site-specific risk analysis and safety plans.

Construction in the City of Boston

Also starting today, May 18, the City of Boston will allow a subset of construction projects on sites that meet specific criteria to commence (hospitals, public schools, 1-3 unit residential buildings, road and utility work or other outdoor/open-air work such as steel erection). On May 26, all construction projects in Boston may re-commence construction, if the construction site has submitted a COVID-19 Safety Plan and a COVID-19 Safety Affidavit in accordance with the City’s Temporary Guidance for Construction

Office Space Reopening

Starting May 25, the Administration will allow office space to reopen at 25% of capacity, except in the City of Boston, which will allow office space to reopen on June 1. NAIOP has been in talks with the City and we will keep members posted if any additional standards for offices are released. The Baker-Polito Administration has released guidance for office spaces ahead of the May 25 date so that companies are able to review and plan for reopening. The guidance released includes a COVID-19 checklist and mandatory sector-specific safety standards.

The Administration has made it very clear that they hope employees who can work from home continue to do so throughout this recovery in order to limit potential exposure and allow for a successful and resilient reopening.

Plan for Public Transit Released

The MBTA has remained open throughout this public health crisis, and will continue to provide service as adjusted to prioritize essential travel for healthcare and emergency workers. All riders and employees are required to wear face coverings while riding public transit. Stations and vehicles will continue to be cleaned and sanitized with increased frequency, and customers should board at the rear doors of buses and street-level trolley stops. Seniors and individuals with disabilities may still board at the front door if needed. 

COVID-19 Update: Boston Announces Incremental Start to Construction

On May 5, City of Boston announced it will be taking an incremental approach to broadening the allowable categories of construction. Effective May 5, all essential construction projects (as defined by the state, which currently means residential, hospitals, public schools, mixed use with residential, public works and construction related to COVID-19) with approved safety plans and signed affidavits as required under the COVID-19 Safety Policy for Construction will be authorized to prepare the site with project specific COVID-19 safety measures.

As of May 18, the City of Boston will allow a subset of essential construction projects on sites that meet specific criteria to commence (hospitals, public schools, 1-3 unit residential buildings, road and utility work or other outdoor/open-air work such as steel erection). On May 26, all essential construction projects as defined by the state may re-commence construction in adherence to safety plans.

At no time will the City of Boston permit any construction beyond what is allowed by the Commonwealth. DPW and ISD will continue to monitor and enforce the COVID-19 Safety Plans for Construction. In accordance with the signed affidavit, contractors acknowledge and agree that non-compliance with any requirements may result in suspension of termination of work in progress of revocation of the City’s permit for such work.

NAIOP will continue to advocate for policies, Executive Orders and legislation that address how this public health crisis is affecting real estate and overall economic development. We are working on numerous initiatives. Please feel free to reach out to CEO Tamara Small or Government Affairs Associate Anastasia Nicolaou if you have any questions.

COVID 19 Update: Eviction Legislation Before Senate, Clarity on Construction Moratoriums and Other Issues Affecting CRE

Construction Moratoriums and Guidance

In recent days, there has been a great deal of confusion over construction moratoriums at the state and local level. We hope the following summary, which reflects the latest information, provides some clarity.

State: On Tuesday, March 31, the Baker-Polito Administration updated the construction related guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance limits “essential” construction to housing and critical infrastructure activities. Under the revised list, private nonresidential construction is not considered essential (unless it falls within one of the specified exemptions). As of noon, April 1, only housing projects (including mixed use with housing, infrastructure projects and construction related to COVID-19 can proceed. On April 2, the state updated the FAQ page to answer questions on this issue. The state also issued supplemental guidelines to limit COVID-19 exposures on construction sites and additional guidance outlining the enforcement of COVID-19 safety guidelines. It specifically states that “for all private projects the primary enforcement responsibility rests with the city or town.”

Local: Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, and numerous other cities and towns have issued a halt to all construction until further notice. Companies should maintain the crews necessary to make sure sites are “safe and secure.”  On April 5, Mayor Walsh asked that even if a job is one of the few that is allowed to move forward under current guidelines, companies should consider shutting down. In addition, effective April 2, Cambridge issued its own construction guidance

Commercial and Residential Eviction Moratorium Legislation

On Thursday, April 2, the House passed H. 4615, An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency. The bill provides eviction moratoriums for both commercial and residential tenants. The bill is now before the Senate, where a vote is expected on April 9.

Property Tax Update

As part of Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, the municipal relief bill signed by Governor Baker on April 3, municipalities are allowed to extend the due date of quarterly taxes to June 1st.  
 
The City of Cambridge announced it is extending the due date for Second Half Real Estate and Property Tax bills until June 1, 2020. In addition, interest and other penalties on late payments made on Excise Tax and water/sewer bills with due dates after March 10, 2020 will be waived if payments are made before June 30, 2020. It is our understanding that this applies to both residential and commercial.
 
The City of Boston has extended the due date for property tax bills in Boston until June 1st to give residents more flexibility during the ongoing public health crisis caused by COVID-19. It is our understanding this only applies to residential.

BPDA Covid-19 Response

The BPDA is postponing all BPDA-hosted public meetings regarding Article 80 development projects and planning studies until further notice. While projects will continue to be reviewed internally by BPDA staff, the public review process for both Article 80 development projects and the BPDA’s planning studies is on hold until public meetings can be resumed. If you are a landlord or tenant of the BPDA’s housing program, please visit the BPDA’s housing page for information and resources. As the BPDA’s response to Covid-19 continues to evolve, please check this page or follow @bostonplans on Twitter for updated guidance.

COVID-19 Massachusetts Relief Fund

On April 6, Governor Charlie Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker announced the launch of the COVID-19 Massachusetts Relief Fund. It is designed to support organizations assisting Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents, frontline health care workers, and other essential service providers.  Donations are needed and encouraged.
 

COVID 19 Update: Governor Limits Essential Construction to Housing & Infrastructure, Extends Non-Essential Business Closures

Today Governor Charlie Baker extended his emergency order to close non-essential businesses and his stay-at-home advisory until May 4. It requires all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public.  In addition, the Administration also updated the “COVID-19 Essential Services” categories. Of interest to NAIOP members, the list of “essential” construction related activities was modified so that only construction related to housing (including mixed use with housing) and critical infrastructure are now considered “essential.”  

The revised construction-related activities list is as follows:

-Workers performing housing construction related activities, including construction of mixed-use projects that include housing, to ensure additional units can be made available to combat the Commonwealth’s existing housing supply shortage.

Workers supporting the construction of housing, including those supporting government functions related to the building and development process, such as inspections, permitting and plan review services that can be modified to protect the public health, including allowing qualified private third-party inspections accountable to government agencies.

-Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, builders, contractors, HVAC Technicians, landscapers, inspectors and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, businesses and buildings such as hospitals, health care facilities, senior living facilities, and any temporary construction required to support COVID-19 response.

-Workers – including contracted vendors – who support the operation, inspection, maintenance and repair of essential public works facilities and operations, including roads and bridges, water and sewer, laboratories, fleet maintenance personnel, construction of critical or strategic infrastructure, traffic signal maintenance, emergency location services for buried utilities, and maintenance of digital systems infrastructure supporting public works operations. Critical or strategic infrastructure includes public works construction including construction of public schools, colleges and universities and construction of state facilities, including leased space, managed by the Division of Capital Asset Management; airport operations; water and sewer; gas, electrical, nuclear, oil refining and other critical energy services; roads and highways; public transportation; steam; solid waste and recycling collection and removal; and internet and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services).

-Workers who support infrastructure, such as by road and line clearing and utility relocation, to ensure the availability of and access to needed facilities, transportation, energy and communications.   The previous definition of construction workers was as follows: “

Construction Workers who support the construction, operation, inspection and maintenance of construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction)”.

COVID-19 Update: Non-Essential Shutdown – What It Means for CRE

All Non-Essential Businesses to Cease In Person Operation, Stay at Home Advisory For Two Weeks
Today, Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public as of Tuesday, March 24th at noon until Tuesday, April 7th at noon. These businesses are encouraged to continue operations remotely. The Baker-Polito Administration issued a list of designated businesses and other organizations that provide essential services and workforces related to COVID-19 that shall continue to operate brick and mortar facilities during this two-week time period. Last week, NAIOP, ICSC and GBREB issued this request in preparation for a such a situation.

We were, therefore, pleased to see that “Construction Workers who support the construction, operation, inspection, and maintenance of construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction)” are listed as essential. In addition, “Workers to ensure continuity of building functions, including local and state inspectors and administrative support of inspection services who are responsible for the inspection of elevators, escalators, lifts, buildings, plumbing and gas fitting, electrical work, and other safety related professional work” are also listed as essential. We are seeking clarity on what this means for communities that have shut down construction.  

E-Notary and Smoke & CO Detectors
Friday, after a letter was issued by NAIOP and several other groups, Governor Baker issued guidance on smoke and CO detector inspections to allow home sales to move forward. It allows the requirement to have smoke and CO detector certificates transferred from the seller to the buyer as long as both sides agree in writing. We expect the e-notary legislation to move soon.  

Permit Tolling
NAIOP has been working very closely with the Mass Municipal Association on language that addresses the tolling of permits during this time. We have been in constant contact with legislators and the Administration on this issue. Final language is expected to move soon. We are also pushing for a Permit Extension Act to address the significant number of projects affected by this.  

Donate Supplies to Help Fight COVID-19
The business community is working to support the Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency Supply Hub to help coordinate efforts to try and bring additional supplies and resources to our state’s healthcare institutions so they can continue to test and treat patients with COVID-19.

NAIOP is asking our member companies to consider how they may be able to help, specifically in donating lab, testing, and diagnostics supplies, personal protection equipment (PPE), and medical and scientific expertise needed to combat COVID-19. Please fill out the following survey to let us know what you can donate: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TVP69NJ

NAIOP will continue to advocate for policies, Executive Orders and legislation that address how this public health crisis is affecting real estate and overall economic development. We are working on numerous initiatives. Please feel free to reach out to CEO Tamara Small or Government Affairs Associate Anastasia Nicolaou if you have any questions.