Jason Ward, president of Landmark Enterprises, said diversification has helped the portfolio developer and commercial real estate company weather some of the COVID-19 fallout in recent weeks.
Ward said the pandemic, and its required social isolation, is “something we’ve never experienced before. We’re all very collaborative. We’re a small team. We like to get into the same room and pass ideas around.”
Landmark’s core business is development, property and asset management, and commercial brokerage.
The company, which is located in Mount Pleasant, owns one of the most visible projects coming from Charleston to East Cooper — the Gateway office development.
“From a business perspective, you know, we feel there’s definitely been a pause in the market,” Ward said. “We’re still trying to understand the impact of all this. The biggest question mark is when will life return to a normal level?”
Ward said Landmark’s three main business lines are office, industrial and hospitality. He said hospitality is obviously the most impacted right now, but he thinks it’s possible that the COVID-19 outbreak could change how companies view, use and lease office space as well.
Like a lot of companies, Landmark sees a difference between the pandemic and the Great Recession that began in 2008, though some of the immediate concerns are comparable. He said banks understand that the hospitality sector needs the most help.
“Banks are definitely working with us,” Ward said. “Contrary to the Great Recession, banks are calling us and saying ‘How can we help?’ as opposed to not returning our phone calls. We’re all in this together. They get it.”
This week, Landmark and Ward hired Jon Chalfie as broker in charge. Ward said the timing was coincidental to the COVID-19 outbreak, but it indicates the company is looking beyond the negative impact of the virus.
“He is one of the the most experienced and capable brokers in the market,” Ward said. “He has a great deal of industrial and office experience in the market, but also brings a lot of third-party experience to our company.”
Landmark has always had a line of business focused on selling and leasing commercial real estate for third-party clients since Gene Blanton founded the company in 1974, Ward said. He said the addition of Chalfie is simply the next step in growing that line of business.
“He’s a rare commodity in the market, and he’s going to add experience to an already great brokerage team,” Ward said. “Our business plan, our service lines are not changing at all; we’re just bringing in new leadership to run that side of our business.”
Ward said he feels strongly about the Charleston market’s ability to bounce back from the coronavirus lockdown. He said the market indicators show it might take up to 12 months to get back to what he would consider normal market conditions.
“We really just don’t know,” Ward said. “I don’t think anyone knows what the long-term effect of this is going to be right now. We’re still very bullish about the projects that we have on our drawing board. Charleston is very strong. People want to do business here.”