A rendering of the redesigned façade and entryway at One Gateway Center, part of a sweeping overhaul of the landmark Gateway office complex in downtown Newark – Courtesy: Gensler/Onyx Equities LLC
By Joshua Burd
Onyx Equities is set to reopen its office buildings this week after developing guidelines in consultation with health care, environmental and design experts.
John Saraceno, a managing principal with the company, said Onyx has been operating its office buildings for essential businesses under social distancing restrictions. Yet he said there is “a growing urgency among many tenants to return at scale” as the region moves forward after the COVID-19 outbreak.
To that end, Saraceno said Onyx’s team has “assessed every touchpoint our tenants encounter, modified our operations and presented our plan in webinars to tenants at each property, and they have been incredibly supportive.” The firm has developed a study in consultation with an environmental hygienist and other health care professionals — thought to be the first of its kind in New Jersey — that provides a best practices operating manual featuring testing and disinfecting programs.
“COVID-19 is displacing companies from New York and elsewhere who no longer wish to expose their workers to public transportation, so our preparation here is very mindful that our assets may be appealing to an entirely new cohort of tenancy,” Saraceno said. “It is imperative that we demonstrate leadership here in a way to create confidence in the marketplace generally.”
Hillmann Consulting supported the report’s development by providing an independent environmental assessment and reopening recommendations for the individual buildings in Onyx’s portfolio of nearly 7 million square feet of office space, according to a news release. The landlord created a set of policies and procedures for each of its specific holdings, requiring that tenants distribute new presence guidelines to each of their employees, including but not limited to occupancy restrictions and mask coverings.
Notably, Onyx plans to have a so-called experience ambassador at each property to monitor adherence to social distancing and personal protective equipment, while assuring two-person per elevator limits, the news release said. Each visitor and vendor, from clients to delivery companies to security personnel, must follow a strict set of guidelines in order to enter the building and in some cases will have their temperatures read by a recently installed Mobotix thermal camera.
“By being thorough and disciplined, COVID-19 is a reality that we can manage effectively in the office environment,” said Kristen Pappas, vice president of property management for Onyx Equities. “Our portfolio of esteemed tenants requires that we confront COVID-19 to comprehensively support their commitment to their employees’ health, so while we are insisting on face coverings, that is only the beginning of the precautions we have invoked. The work that we have done to address a zero-defect environment creates a formidable standard in the marketplace.”
As part of its presentation, Onyx distributed its self-screening guidelines for employees, providing a set of nine requirements that should be reviewed each morning prior to leaving for the office. Aside from supplying office tenants with a new occupancy plan, the firm has developed separate plans for each retail and food service operator in each of its buildings.
The company is also offering three levels of cleaning programs for tenant spaces and has installed touch-free technology throughout its buildings, including occupancy locks, wipe stations and hands-free restrooms, the news release said.
“We know that companies are more effective and productive when people work together, and we know they want to be here — but not at the expense of their health,” Pappas added. “The only answer is a set of simple procedures that will quickly become the new normal. While our screening will identify anyone whose temperature suggests they might be ill, the process truly begins at home, with each person being committed to maintaining a safe environment for those around them.”
Other guidelines established under Onyx’s “COVID-19 Prevention and Response Protocol for Commercial Properties” report include:
- Using the Torch UV Disinfection System
- Applying nanotechnology to eliminate germs from surfaces in elevators and restrooms
- Optimizing existing HVAC systems to help attack airborne illnesses, meeting or exceeding the standards adopted by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
- Establishing a response protocol for tracing and telemedicine to support infected employees in addition to a process for clearing contact areas and disinfecting all surfaces in the event cases are reported in an Onyx building
Onyx’s notable holdings in the region include the Gateway complex in Newark, Jericho Plaza in Jericho, Long Island, and a portfolio of Bergen County office buildings, largely in Paramus.