were still able to handle some of the tenant relocations from
the other complex.
As with past storms, a certain population always seems to
leave St. Croix and never returns. Simmons estimates a loss of
nearly 80 families in the 250-unit apartment, fewer in the other
Of course, CRM has onsite managers and a list of vendors to
call into action during and after the storm—as Simmons says,
experience is everything. They all know their jobs, naturally,
but responsiveness was hampered both by the lack of communication due to the failing grid and the need for those managers to
deal with their own personal crises.
Prime among the list of preferred vendors, says Simmons,
is their insurance broker, who, “we kept very close. They have
helped tremendously with the creation of a recovery plan.” Today, Community is still working with the insurance firm, a public adjuster and the owner to pencil out total damages, but Simmons ballparks total losses at $16 million for the 250-unit asset
and as much as $5 million for the other two properties. Once the
insurance claim is settled, he sees full recovery within 12 months.
The second half of 2017 was a rich, if disastrous, hurricane season. According to ABC News, for the first time on record, three
Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the U.S., and September alone was the most active month on record for such storms.
Among the top three was Hurricane Maria, which pummeled
Puerto Rico, St. Croix and the cluster of islands in the Caribbean with 175-mile-an-hour winds. Category 5 Maria left 547
dead and nearly $100 billion in damages.
“We’ve been managing properties down there since the early 1970s,” says Michael B. Simmons, CPM, NAHP®-e, president and CEO of Community Realty Management (CRM),
Inc., AMO. “So we’ve been through this before, with Hugo [a
Category 5 storm that hit in 1989] and Marilyn [Category 3 in
1995].” So experience, he says, helped in this latest crisis.
CRM, it should be noted, manages 8,700 units, mostly in the
Mid-Atlantic states and the Caribbean. The assets range from
affordable housing to office buildings and single-family homes.
That experience has sharpened the ability of the firm, headquartered in Pleasantville, N.J., to clear many hurdles, such
as managing properties some 1,700 miles away in St. Croix, a
particular challenge during a record-breaking storm. This is
especially true given that the CRM assets there are affordable
housing, a fact that would add another layer of process to recovery efforts.
If that were not enough, the tiny island is virtually devoid of
ready building materials. “There’s a cinder-block plant and a
rum distillery,” says Simmons, making it necessary for all product to come in from Miami or New Orleans by barge—that is,
once the post-storm travel ban was lifted.
Further complicating matters, the island’s entire electrical
grid—never the most robust, even in best of times, says Simmons—was totally knocked out, rendering generators and
pumps useless once their diesel tanks emptied. Power would not
be restored to the island territory for nearly three months.
Three CRM properties there were hardest hit. A 250-unit
aluminum-frame apartment was “devastated,” he says, “with
severe structural damage that included roof systems, collapsed
walls and heavy water infiltration.”
The other two properties, 189- and 108-unit buildings,
both of masonry construction, suffered fewer structural woes
but still got hit. “The roof vents flew off, and water poured into
the eight-inch holes,” he says. Despite this, the two buildings