Propmodo, a global source that explores emerging technologies and the built environment, recently interview Larry Silvestri about how COVID-19 has changed the way retailers use parking lots. See an excerpt below:
Parking lots have become more than just parking lots. Since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve witnessed an expedited evolution of parking lots and spaces: from an over abundant eyesore of asphalt to a buzzing hub where communities can begin to rebuild and businesses can begin to recoup lost revenue. Walmart parking lots have been transformed into drive-in theaters to host movies and virtual concerts. Ghost kitchens and food trucks are springing up in empty lots across the country. Main Street has been taken over by outdoor eating areas that extend beyond the sidewalks and into the parking lanes. Retailers are offering customers “contactless” experiences through curbside pick-up, and pop-up distribution centers are occupying vacant lots in the form of freight containers. Parking lots might be peaking.
Whereas in other parts of the country like Florida, outdoor dining is being used to supplement space and revenue, as indoor dining (in most counties) is open but limited to 50 percent maximum occupancy. I spoke with Larry Silvestri, the president of Silvestri Law, PA, who was in-house general counsel for various retail developers for over twenty-five years and is now in private practice in St. Petersburg, FL. Silvestri explained that even with the extended outdoor dining and limited indoor dining, “there is still sometimes a wait, and this indicates demand.” Hopefully, the demand continues to grow and states continue to move forward with reopening plans. But until a vaccine is approved, we may come to rely on parking lots and outdoor spaces more heavily.
I asked Silvestri if he thinks that future leases will adapt to include the use of parking and outdoor spaces. “Recently, I heard someone ask, ‘Now that tenants are using outdoor spaces to conduct business, are landlords trying to charge them for it?’ The answer is no. Landlords are more concerned about the survival of their tenants,” said Silvestri. It’s in the landlord’s best interest to be flexible and help the tenant through this challenging time. If using the parking lot for purposes other than parking works to accomplish this, landlords are going to be supportive regardless of what the previous lease terms might have been. “The reality of the day trumps whatever the leases might say,” he explained. Perhaps the lease doesn’t account for curbside pick-up and calls for all parking areas outside of entrances to remain clear. Right now, those lease terms are negligible, especially if curbside pick-up is what is keeping tenants afloat.