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Doctor’s orders: developers increasingly tap medical experts, amenities

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, wellness services at developments have expanded to include an array of medical amenities, and gone far beyond luxury residential projects.

Crocker Partners, one of Florida’s biggest office landlords, even hired a doctor to fill a new role for the company: director of environmental health.

By hiring Dr. Walter Okoroanyanwu, Boca Raton-based Crocker Partners, an owner, operator and developer of office and mixed-use properties in the U.S., said it is making a long-term investment in medical and health expertise. The company said it hopes to keep its tenants and their employees at ease when they enter a Crocker Partners building. Between 20 percent and 70 percent of Crocker’s tenants are now showing up to work, said Angelo Bianco, managing partner at Crocker Partners.

Okoroanyanwu will focus on creating an environmental health, sustainability and wellness program that will be implemented across the firm’s 11 million-square-foot portfolio.

Bianco said the program will include changes that have been implemented over the past few months, including upgrading HVAC systems, moving deliveries to the curb rather than inside buildings, and changing high-touch hardware to copper alloy material, which is said to kill viruses such as Covid-19.

Crocker Partners isn’t the only real estate firm to turn to the medical field in recent months. Developers are incorporating telemedicine into their properties, adding medical space to projects, and hiring experts to guide them on operational and physical changes.

The doctor will see you in your home

Developer CC Homes, led by Armando Codina and Jim Carr, is partnering with Baptist Health South Florida to offer on-demand telemedicine to home buyers at CC Homes’ developments: Canarias at Downtown Doralin Doral and Maple Ridge in southwest Florida.

Carr said the idea for the partnership came to him before Covid. CC Homes tested it with buyers at Downtown Doral and got enough of a response to implement it at other projects. Baptist is the largest healthcare organization in the region, with 11 hospitals and 100 outpatient centers.

Homebuyers receive a complimentary Baptist Health digital health kit from TytoCare, which offers unlimited virtual urgent care visits, and an exam device that has an HD camera and microphone, infrared digital thermometer, and adapters to record the ears, throat, heart and lungs.

Telemedicine eliminates the time wasted in a doctor’s living room, and Carr said the digital health kit is a step up from FaceTiming with doctors.

CC Homes is covering the cost to homebuyers for a year, and Carr said most insurance companies accept the use of the kit.

About 250 homes remain for sale out of more than 500 houses and townhouses at Canarias, with prices ranging from the mid-$500,000s to more than $1.2 million. About 2,000 homes are left for sale at Maple Ridge out of 3,000, Carr said.

The medical trend was already underway, but the pandemic is driving increased demand for projects with health and wellness components, developers say.

Onsite medical centers

Last month, developer Dan Kodsi announced plans to double the size of a health and wellness center at Kodsi’s Legacy Hotel & Residences at Miami Worldcenter. The $60 million, 100,000-square-foot healthcare center is set to include doctors’ offices, an onsite lab, pharmacy, and a full diagnostic center and rooms outfitted with medical gas and ventilator capabilities.

About two years ago, Integra Investments completed Aventura ParkSquare, a mixed-use project with residences, office, senior living, and a medical center. Around the same time, Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami Beach offered condo buyers a yearlong membership to a medical concierge service led by South Beach Diet founder Dr. Arthur Agatston.

And Rieber Developments recently broke ground on 12|12 Aventura and Ivory 214, mixed-use projects with medical office space.

Chief Health Officer

At Crocker Partners, Okoroanyanwu will aim to be a sentinel of health and safety protocols, to ensure procedures are implemented, and to be prepared “for the next Covid,” Bianco said. Crocker also brought on the doctor to free up employees who have been focused on implementing new procedures in response to the pandemic.

Crocker Partners said it will share its findings and new protocols with the commercial real estate industry.

“We could not do any of this and just wait until the virus goes away — go back and lease our space up,” Bianco said. “I think it’s the lazy option, and it’s not going to allow us to lead and improve our environment to avoid and minimize future crises.”

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