Coffee Talk: Scott Rechler on beating the pandemic

RXR Realty CEO discusses how he prepared for and responded to the crisis

How do you get your company, investors and tenants through a year-and-a-half-long global crisis? “Communicate, communicate, communicate,” said Scott Rechler, CEO of RXR Realty.

In this installment of Coffee Talk, Rechler spoke with The Real Deal’s Amir Korangy about the importance of agility and engagement in times of crisis.

One of RXR’s greatest assets, Rechler said, has been its ability to tap into a “broad ecosystem of relationships.” The firm got ahead of the pandemic by getting intel from investors in Asia, holding meetings and forming task forces to address it starting in February 2020.

Armed with outside knowledge from public health officials and leadership from within, RXR was able to not only do short-term damage control, Rechler said, but also look to the future and plan for a rebound.

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Most of the companies that lease from RXR are what Rechler called “major tenants.” When asked what became of its smaller ones when the pandemic hit, Rechler said RXR was able to cut its smaller tenants some slack by renegotiating leases for those who truly needed it.

“The first thing that we did,” he said, “was use all of our advocacy efforts to push for legislation to help support the small businesses to get through the worst of the crisis.” He mentioned a volunteer program at RXR where professionals helped small businesses, such as restaurants, navigate new ways of doing business.

On the subject of the slow return of workers to offices, Rechler said, “The worst thing we can have for our communities is a big swath of streets that have empty, dark buildings.”

Re-populating them hinges on offering something employees can’t get working from home. He talked about the shift from understanding real estate as an asset class to real estate as a service.

“It’s no longer about building four walls and signing long-term leases and just collecting rents every month,” Rechler said. “You have to activate what happens in those buildings. You have to create a sense of community.”