Meridian Group Bets on Proptech to Bring Workers Back to the Office
The Meridian Group, a Bethesda, Md.-based developer, is beefing up the tech offerings in its entire office portfolio as it prepares for a full return to the office.
The company is working with cove, a Washington, D.C.-based startup which created a custom app for tenants that serves as a central hub for communication and specialized services as they head back to the office. The app allows workers to unlock doors, reserve conference rooms and request any AV services they need. Tenants can also send visitor passes to guests, allowing them to seamlessly access the building with a special code.
The company is also licensing Openpath to offer touchless access control technology in its buildings, the first real estate portfolio in the Washington, D.C. area to implement this. Openpath was recently acquired by Motorola Solutions.
Commercial Observer spoke with the Meridian Group’s Tanya Graves, director of marketing and tenant services and Colin Madden, an associate , about how these tech innovations will assist companies in bringing people back to the workplace.
Commercial Observer: Why is an app like this important in the post-COVID work environment?
Tanya Graves: Tenant experience apps create value in the workplace and create frictionless, unique experiences both virtually and in person for tenants. Apps provide a direct line of communication to tenants and help build a more meaningful community through technology. Technology is an important way—for us as the landlord—to tailor the building and our offerings to empirically meet the continuously changing needs and desires of our tenants.
How does it work? What does the app provide?
Graves: Tenants download the app, use their company email to log in and then are directed to the platform home page. There they will find features like building updates, events, highlights, tenant services and property management contact information. The app serves as the gateway to all building-related information, experiences and services right in the palm of your hand.
Integration with access control hardware and software like Openpath gives tenants the ability to access the building via the App.
What are the benefits to tenants?
Tenants can now discover and RSVP to events, take advantage of exclusive retail discounts and perks, and keep up with building and neighborhood updates. The mobile app also features a touchless access control update, allowing you to unlock doors right from your phone. Through an additional integration with a real-time anonymous people counting hardware and software, tenants can check and monitor the number of users in our amenities at any time. In addition, the app includes an improved reservation system to manage and operate our amenities.
How would you characterize the state of workers returning to the office environment? What are you projecting for 2022? Colin Madden: We are optimistic. With booster shots and vaccines available and received for most of the younger population, people are becoming more comfortable with the idea of returning to the office, whether it be full-time or several days per week. We have seen an increase in occupancy across all of our buildings, rising from an average of 36 percent in June 2021 to 45 percent in October/November 2021.
What are your projections about what we’ll see in 2022? Will more people going back to the office?
Madden: Yes. Given conversations with our existing tenant base, we believe that January 2022 is the target RTO date. We all expected to see a surge in occupancy in September 2021; however, the Delta variant caused many companies to push back their plans.
How will you be utilizing Openpath’s touchless access control technology in buildings? Can you provide some examples?
Madden: Openpath allows a user to simply swipe a hand near access readers to gain entry. This small, but meaningful upgrade provides users with a seamless and frictionless entry into their building and space. They no longer need to shuffle around their pockets and purses to locate their fobs, and even while carrying a full load, they can open doors without hassle.
What else is important to mention?
Madden: If anything, the pandemic has accelerated the use of technology in real estate. We believe we will see a continuation of that trend in 2022, which should benefit both tenants and landlords. This new technology allows the Meridian Group to provide better solutions for tenants and employees in the long run to set the stage for flexible work environments.
We are strong believers in “future proofing” our assets. We will continue to monitor trends in the workplace as well as other smart-building technologies that could improve the overall experience and operations at our properties.
Many of these initiatives also strongly align with our ESG goals as an operator of real estate and hopefully allow tenants to help address some of their own goals as well.
Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.