Treading in new territory charting the real estate horizon, Jeffrey Pollock, shares his views on Atlanta’s commercial retail, hospitality, office space, positioning into future trends. In the midst of head-scratching over the post-pandemic recovery arc, will traditional office space companies stagger shifts, change cubicle arrangements, shift into a virtual culture? What will be the cost of mentoring and innovation traded for face-to-face office interaction? Pollock preaches flexibility.
After growing up in Raleigh, he graduated from the Kelley Business School at Indiana University. He is now the owner and managing principal of the eponymous Pollock Commercial Real Estate Services, which he founded in 2009.
“We are known for in-town expertise; however, we service a wide variety of clients throughout Atlanta. We represent entrepreneurs seeking to purchase or lease new space, landlords, and sellers looking to sell and lease their properties. We’ve assisted a range of diverse companies from high-growth tech firms to an ice cream factory.”
Pollock just completed his term as the president of the Atlanta Commercial Board of REALTORS, believed the largest trade association of its kind in the nation. He described his experience there. “When I entered the real estate business, I was eager to get involved for the networking and continuing education opportunities. Over time, I chaired committees, taught courses, and I started serving in leadership on the board of directors 10 years ago. I was nominated by my peers in 2018 to lead the organization as president in 2020.”
Pollock shares his views with the AJT.
AJT: Assessing the effects of COVID on our real estate market, how would you write this history?
Pollock: It is challenging to generalize about the commercial real estate market because the various sectors were impacted by the pandemic quite differently. Warehouse and distribution properties are thriving while hotels and many retail properties are struggling. Our primary focus is on office space, and other than a handful of large transactions, the Atlanta market was generally stagnant. We have observed record-setting amounts of new space being offered for sublease, and there are several new office towers under construction that are only partially pre-leased.
AJT: What do you think the first half of 2021 will look like?
Pollock: We are anticipating a slow but steady return to the office as vaccines are distributed and the case numbers decrease. Larger tenants are retrofitting spaces and creating staggered schedules for employees’ returns. We expect to see investment sales return and an increase in new deal volume by this summer.
AJT: How does that compare to a post-COVID market?
Pollock: I remain bullish on Atlanta, and we predict transaction volume will continue to increase. It may be 2022, however, until we can return to pre-pandemic market dynamics.
AJT: Will corporations change their business model permanently to virtual office space?
Pollock: Every company is evaluating its real estate needs from a safety and productivity perspective. We will see a small percentage of companies that will move permanently to a virtual model, however, the majority of our clients have expressed a desire to retain an office even if not all of the employees are present simultaneously. We are hearing about challenges in recruiting, training, maintaining vibrant culture, and productivity in the all-virtual scenarios.
AJT: What about the retail landscape?
Pollock: The pandemic has certainly intensified online shopping behavior, and health concerns and regulations surrounding dining have a chokehold on restaurateurs. That said, well-located retail will always adapt to accommodate the needs of the community it serves. In the short term, takeout, drive-through, outdoor dining, and delivery services will prevail, but as soon as it’s safe, many customers will be eager to return to the rich culinary scene we have here. Big box vacancies are finding success with healthcare conversions, and there is a lot of energy around the last mile (rapid order fulfillment) distribution so we will see the ‘order online and pick up in store’ continue to increase.
AJT: Any deals to be grabbed for speculators?
Pollock: Many qualified investors have capital ready to deploy for distressed assets, but we have not yet seen a freefall in value across most property types. In the short term, the hospitality sector is taking the hardest hit.
Pollock and wife Libby have two children and are active at Temple Emanu-El. Pollock is involved in the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, participating in the leadership development program and serving on the Allocations Committee.