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Innovating in a Pandemic
Mark Wittcoff is doing well by doing good.
Landmark Equity Properties’ CEO Mark Wittcoff believes we should prepare for a robust recovery from this pandemic by economizing buildings and improving our communities. His thirty-four years of experience managing commercial real estate includes three previous recessions when he learned how to increase property values during challenging times by operating efficiently, retaining tenants and supporting nonprofit efforts to help make people’s lives better.
Mark Wittcoff is doing well by doing good. COVID-19 forced most office and retail buildings to temporarily close during March and April and Wittcoff created three innovative tools to help owners adapt to an uncertain market.
First, a lease amendment that extends the lease and defers rent while measuring a tenant’s recovery according to performance benchmarks that gradually increase rental payments as a tenant’s business recovers.
Second, a management plan that Wittcoff calls “managing unoccupied occupied space” where every building’s utility rate plans are renegotiated with providers to fit new usage periods and occupancy levels. Vacancy credits are implemented with service contractors to reduce costs during closures and reduced occupancy for security, parking, elevators, HVAC, maintenance and janitorial service.
Finally, an overall financial forecast is created for each property that provides owners, investors, lenders and managers with the same report comparing current revenue and local market data for informed collaborative decision making.
These new tools help building owners retain tenants and reduce expenses protecting the value of their property yet Wittcoff believes that this is not enough. “It doesn’t matter if you live in the safest room if your house is on fire” he says. “The wellbeing of people in our communities directly impacts the value of real estate.”
“It doesn’t matter if you live in the safest room if your house is on fire. The wellbeing of people in our communities directly impacts the value of real estate.”
This is why Mark Wittcoff is involved in his community as a board member, volunteer and fundraiser. He is co-chair of UCLA’s Stroke Rescue Council of Advocates and he serves on the UCLA Health System Board.
The University of California Los Angeles is one of six academic health centers in the United States to deploy a mobile stroke unit ambulance equipped with a CAT scanner and manned by a critical care neurologist. This unit provides emergency intervention in underserved areas of Los Angeles County where residents are disproportionately dying of stroke. COVID-19 creates an even greater need to train first responders and to educate the public on how to recognize signs of a stroke and intervene effectively to save lives.
Mark and his wife, Dr. Laura Wittcoff, recently established a UCLA Mobile Stroke Rescue Nursing Fellowship named after Mark’s father, Raymond Wittcoff and Laura’s grandmother, Marjorie Scherck to help sustain this effort and to help support the vision of the UCLA Mobile Stroke program founders Arline and Henry Gluck.
Wittcoff also serves on the Board of Directors of Jewish National Fund in Los Angeles and he is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Stuart Ketchum Downtown YMCA, Meals on Wheels West, Challengers Boys and Girls Club and the William Parker Los Angeles Police Foundation.
He began managing and leasing buildings in 1987 as a leasing manager with Tishman West Companies and he was a general manager with publicly traded REIT, Arden Realty, Inc., senior portfolio manager at Black Equities Group and chief operating officer of KW Commercial Boston. Recently, Wittcoff was managing director of investor relations at Standard Management Company, a national real estate syndicator in Los Angeles.
Three decades managing every type of building for property owners in all areas of the Country informs Wittcoff’s belief that the wellbeing of people in a community is the most important factor that determines the demand for real estate. “Owners who profit from the built environment have a responsibility to help improve the social landscape.” he says. “This is why it is so important for all of us to be deeply connected to our communities.”
“Owners who profit from the built environment have a responsibility to help improve the social landscape.”
Wittcoff predicts that a period of real growth and prosperity will eventually follow this pandemic similar to what happened after the great depression and World War II. His optimism is not deterred by the current climate of uncertainty and he acknowledges that nobody really knows how long this pandemic will last. His hopeful outlook is
“We can use this challenging time wisely – reflecting on what works well and what we need to change. I think that how much good we can do for others will determine how well we do in the future.”
encouraging: “We can use this challenging time wisely - reflecting on what works well and what we need to change. I think that how much good we can do for others will determine how well we do in the future.”