With large holdings in New York and Las Vegas – two cities particularly hard hit by the pandemic – it’s impressive that diversified national real estate company Fisher Brothers has done well over the past 12 months. Commercial Observer spoke to Winston Fisher, a Fisher Brothers partner and CEO of AREA15, about how they succeeded in the face of this tumultuous year.
Commercial Observer: How Did Fisher Brothers Far During The Pandemic? What changes have you made to your leadership style to encourage a safe return to the office?
Winston Fisher: Fisher Brothers has strategically placed its portfolio with tenants who can withstand economic uncertainties. Although the physical occupancy has remained low, we have taken extensive precautionary measures and are ready to welcome our tenants again as soon as they are comfortable.
Long before the pandemic, optimizing the health, safety and wellbeing of our tenants was paramount to our management style and a central pillar of our business. We took a hands-on approach to implementing COVID-19 security protocols and made extraordinary infrastructure upgrades to retrofit our commercial portfolio with hospital grade air filtration systems, contactless building entry, thermal body temperature scanning and more.
Photo credit: James E. Smolka
Our commitment to a comfortable and safe return to work is evident across the portfolio. We partnered with Kastle Systems – America’s largest provider of managed security services – to implement KastleSafeSpaces – an integrated, building-wide plan for protecting the health and safety of employees returning to the office – and have WELL Health Safety certification in our entire company received trading portfolio from New York City.
Fisher Brothers recently launched a new hotel brand. Why did you decide to present this concept now?
We learned that providing amenities, meeting tenants’ needs and creating collaboration spaces that serve as the epicenter of the business universe is no longer a luxury – it’s a must. We have developed a bespoke hospitality platform, Ease Hospitality, to combine hotel-like amenities and functional office space.
Photo credit: Robert Henry
The novelty of this term is the way Ease Hospitality bridges the gap between work and home by providing amenities that add value to our tenants’ day. A real convenience is a lifestyle solution that combines the convenience of the physical and the convenience of digital landscapes.
You opened AREA15 during the pandemic. How did the community get this new venue? How is the appetite for attractions like AREA15?
The pandemic has changed the consumer perspective, placing greater emphasis on the human connection, and leading consumers to actively seek experiences. In response to this increased demand for personal out-of-the-box experiences, we opened AREA15 in September 2020. AREA15 is a unique, fun, and comprehensive retail, dining, and nightlife district located just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, the future of immersive entertainment is clearer than ever.
By adapting and adjusting our ambitions to ensure the space complies with the latest recommendations from leading health professionals and government agencies, we have successfully created a safe environment where people can get a taste of the networking and experiences we have had over the past year have missed.
For the opening weekend of AREA15, the reservations were sold out within 24 hours and AREA15 has
our retail rental space is fully let. People have safely gathered in AREA15 to be transported
to an alternate reality and experience all the excitement and amazement for yourself.
We will continue to see a radical acceleration away from traditional transactional retailing towards greater demand for immersive experiences, storytelling, authentic connections and experiential entertainment.
New York and Las Vegas, both major markets for Fisher Brothers, were hardest hit economically by the pandemic. What does the future hold for you in large urban areas like this across the country?
I firmly believe that cities will recover quickly. People crave social interactions that can only be found in places like New York and Las Vegas. I think we are on the way to defining a new normal – to learn from the challenges of the past year in order to come out stronger.
In your opinion, what stimulated these cities not only to continue promoting vaccinations, but also to do the right thing to get us back to normal? And what do you think they should do to further stimulate economic growth?
First and foremost, we need to make people feel safe. City leaders across the country raced to fill an otherwise absent national leadership position and took a thoughtful approach to closing and eventually reopening their cities. But to get back to normal and fuel economic growth, our cities must be viable places for business to revitalize our economies.
In the post-COVID world, it will be more important than ever that we implement smart, thoughtful policies that drive economic activity. We need to be pro-worker and pro-business, working together to make life easier in cities like New York by expanding childcare options, access to small business credit, affordable housing, and access to good jobs that bridge the gaps fill our economy.
Where do you see the future of New York once we overcome this pandemic?
New York needs to be more growth, accessible, and opportunity to be competitive and attract the companies and top talent that are critical to everyone’s success.
Photo credit: Wayne Yan + Philippe Fournier
The pandemic has changed the way we interact with New York, and I am determined to create public spaces across New York City that are accessible and equitable to change the way that millions of people experience the city. A few years ago I organized Beyond the Centerline, a design competition to redesign the shopping malls on Park Avenue. Park Avenue has 80% less open space per worker than similar New York office districts. And as Metro North’s 20-year plan to demolish much of Park Avenue begins, we’re advocating a creative, design-driven approach to malls replacement as part of the subway shed rebuild work .
We have the opportunity to rebuild a city and an economy that is sustainable and good for everyone.
Tourism, entertainment, retail and hospitality were particularly hard hit during the pandemic. How was AREA15 so successful and what can the industry learn from these successes?
AREA15 is successful because it is unconventional and exceeds the expectations of our visitors.
We are constantly pushing the boundaries to create a portal that fulfills a fundamental need to connect and redefine the traditional retail and entertainment model. AREA15’s success demonstrated how blurring the line between trade and the experiential economy was the wave of the future for the retail landscape prior to the global pandemic. Before COVID-19, the move away from traditional retail and entertainment began due to the desire for artful new forms of entertainment that deliver immersive experiences, authentic connections, and real emotions.
We have entered an age of immersive entertainment and retailing and we need to nurture the creative skills that shift requires.