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Business parks offer management challenges

Managing a business park presents a different set of challenges compared to managing a homeowner's association for a condominium, town home or single-family home community.

Yes, there are similarities, such as budgets, reserve funds and architectural guidelines, which are part of the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions. However, managing a commercial corporate development with owner-occupied office buildings, industrial warehouses or light manufacturing activities offers slightly distinctive nuances for a property management firm.

To begin with, monthly assessments, which are the fees collected for managing the business park, can vary from tenant to tenant based on the amount of square footage of the lot. The larger tenants usually pay more in assessments to the association.

The board of directors normally consists of representatives from the companies doing business at the corporate center instead of individual homeowners. The governing board is generally responsible for setting a budget, updating insurance, planning any improvements to the common landscaped areas and typically overseeing all activities of the management firm.

The role of the board is to ensure that all tenants can enjoy the benefits of their business park. It can be an enormous job with a lot of responsibility.

An ongoing challenge for a management company is to help define what is the association's responsibility and what is the individual owner's responsibility. This is often accomplished by reviewing plot plans and working with the original developer and individual business owners.

For example, if trees need to be trimmed so that branches are away from power lines, signs and automobiles, who is responsible to get the work done -- the association or the individual owner? Sometimes the matter is decided by determining where the common-area irrigation begins and ends.

If a tenant wants to erect a large sign or wishes to remodel the building's facade, the board can determine if the improvements fit within the architectural guidelines, as well as the local governmental agency guidelines. If there were telecommunications-related facility improvements that might disturb other nearby businesses, the board would certainly become involved. Violators who neglected to request prior approval before work began would be cited with a violation letter from the board.

Other issues that might be addressed by a board could include improvements to a business park's monument signage, insurance coverage, security concerns, enhancing safety protections, parking issues, landscape makeovers, telecommunications improvements or a marketing campaign to attract a tenant to an empty building from specialists in tenant representation.

Reserve funds are often used for maintaining and replacing fences, walls, monuments and even irrigation equipment.

It's unlikely that the board would concern itself with an individual tenant's improvements to his or her own facility, such as the addition of exercise equipment or an employee dining room.

From the moment a property management engagement begins, a key to success is a General Management Plan, which contains the guidelines to be followed by the board and the management company.

Elements of a typical General Management Plan can include: Repairs and preventative maintenance schedules, risk management, emergency plans, environment compliance requirements, disaster recovery, quality control and compliance, a selective bidding process, budgeting control, financial review and operational reporting. Additional elements can include performance evaluation measurements for the management firm and staffing requisites.

Still, excellent customer service must remain a cornerstone for a property management firm to successfully manage a corporate business park. Expectations should include an array of managerial services, including accounting and maintenance of common areas and providing administrative, operational and managerial advice.

A property manager can be asked to prepare financial reports, attend board meetings, attend committee meetings, set specifications for subcontractors, direct personnel, supervise physical inspections of the property to determine if there are any rules or architectural violations and concur inspections with subcontractors. Not all companies offer the same services, nor do they view the process of management in the same manner.

A business park operates like a mini-government, making it a truly specialized type of organization. Just like civic officials hire private consultants to advise them and carry out decisions, the most effective business parks will hire a professional management firm to oversee the day-to-day operations.

The best management firms add market value to the properties they manage by holding down expenses while properly maintaining the common areas and adhering to a schedule of maintenance improvements that add desirability and extra worth to the community. The goal is to create and deliver an integrated business environment that inspires, motivates and supports the people who make the tenant businesses succeed, enabling the businesses to concentrate on what they do best.

This can be done with a management philosophy that complements an attractive location with maximum ease of access to and communications with customers, the work force, suppliers and partners. Also important is exceptional landscaping that offers space to breathe and room to grow, along with amenities at your doorstep, such as easy reach of major road, rail and air links.

Good communications and quality work can ensure a smooth business relationship between a property management firm and a business park's tenants for years to come.

Miller is a management representative at N.N. Jaeschke Inc., which manages the San Diego Corporate Center in the Del Mar Highlands area and Sabre Springs Business Park in Poway, among others.

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