Organized Chaos!

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Organized Chaos!

Making Sense of Your Upcoming Asphalt Projects

By Connie Lorenz / Published February 2020

Photo by iStockphoto.com/Stephen Barnes

Pretty much everyone in America has been affected in one way or another by a roadway or parking lot construction project. Whether it be in your own neighborhood or along the dreaded I-4 corridor, nothing is pleasant about the whole experience until the last traffic barricade is removed!

     We don’t like the new traffic pattern. We despise the destruction of our familiar landscape. We dread the coming days, weeks, or months of the constant detours, flagmen, and possibly a minute delay by a flagman asking us to slow down, or worse, stop! Basically, we don’t like the process of change and any inconvenience!

     As an asphalt consultant who was recently blessed to work back-to-back projects on different communities’ paving projects, I recently experienced overseeing the full spectrum of communities, ranging from low income housing all the way up to multi-million dollar home communities. I find that we humans tolerate many things, but roadway and parking lot construction projects are not one of them!

     My experiences ranged from being stalked by a resident because I tried to stop him from walking in the tac (glue) to being clipped by a grumpy old lady in a van who threatened to kill me because she drove into the hot asphalt, trying to sneak around a dump truck and found herself face on with a paving machine! A special note of gratitude goes to those that pass by me on the project who wave at me using only one finger out of five! This happens more times than I can count, all because I am trying to help them get good pavement!

     These projects interrupt our patterns, delay our arrivals, and can even prevent us from getting our daily Starbucks! But most of all, I think we hate not being a part of the decision! We hate the unknown. We really don’t care for the people who are delaying our daily routine, and we definitely don’t like not knowing when it’s going to be over!

     We navigate our way home, after all of the traffic delays from all of the roadway projects going on everywhere, finally making it to our home, only to find a flyer stuck to our door that’s informing us that the community roadways and parking lots are scheduled to be resurfaced in some capacity. They are tearing up the roadways and putting in new ones; life as you know it is over! But…

     What if there was a way you could make some organization out of the upcoming chaos and make it less painful for all of those involved? As a property manager or board member, you will be the person whom all your residents come to for the answers. How in the world are you going to organize the upcoming chaos, or more importantly, is it even possible?

     Well, it is and you can! Paving and resurfacing projects can be overwhelming, but I am going to spend some time over the next few paragraphs teaching some basics to help your community get through the largest construction project that everyone in the community, everyone visiting the community, and everyone making a wrong turn in the community will be affected by. Everyone!

     First and foremost, communicate! All of us have attended enough board meetings to know that less than three percent of the community attends these meetings. Unless something drastic like assessments are on the agenda, usually the attendees are the property manager and board members with a few stragglers present.

     That means when it comes time to start your roadway project, most of the residents are uninformed or clueless to the details of the project. This lack of understanding is the foundation of much of the pain that these projects instill upon everyone. Heck, even your vendors are sure to become irritated because they, too, cannot get to their appointments, or worse, are delayed in starting or continuing their work until after the project is completed! Plan to provide your residents and visitors the correct information in a uniform format from the beginning. Avoid the pitfall of disinformation by not allowing others to create their own version of what is to happen. Putting together a concise, standardized information package will give residents and vendors alike the opportunity to review the upcoming project to better navigate the schedule accordingly. Could it be that easy? If only that was so.

     Step one, know your residents! With multigenerational communities, we have found that we have to communicate with each generation in a different way. “Gen Z” (1997 to present) and “Millennials” (1981 to 1996) are computer whizzes and were born with the iPhone! They like it fast and to the point. They want links to click on that they can read over when they feel like it, and by golly, they are not going to attend any board meeting ever! They don’t care what happened yesterday, they just want to know which day is going to affect them, which, by the way, is all of them! They are most concerned about themselves and their family. Are they are going to be able to get their kids from the bus stop in time, their 8:00 a.m. latte, spin class, and/or work. The answer to all of these is “yes,” but they might have to take a different way or walk to the clubhouse and then start their day! I think most of us boomers have experienced the joy of telling both groups what and when to do something. What is the word I am looking for …? perhaps entitlement, but enough of my non-pc chatter. By the way, once one learns to navigate the language of these groups, they can be some of the most supportive and helpful people in the community.

     Your “Generation X” (1965 to 1980) and “Baby Boomers” (1946 to 1964) are tech savvy, too, but like things in writing and are a little more involved. As some are retired, they like to be active in their community and want to know the “important stuff.” They tend to be more flexible in the constant changing of the project yet tend to voice their unhappiness or concerns a little more clearly then driving by the construction workers calling them names their parents would have spanked them over….oh wait, put them in time out or took away their power cords!

     Your “Silent Generation” (1928 to 1945) and the “Greatest Generation (1910 to 1927) are tough ones as well! They are a mixed bunch that can go either way or any way for that matter! They do not like change, they want to be informed the most, yet many of them have no email address and still have wall phones…yes, the ones that are attached to their wall. They really would rather prefer a nice flyer, maybe a luncheon or a coffee hour which discusses exactly what is going on, what they need to do, and what do they tell their friends on Wednesday who are coming for the weekly book club.

     To some of them, the upcoming project is the most exciting thing to date this year. Others may become disoriented and confused and become quite aggressive. I actually had one resident on a motorcycle who was angry with me tell me that he wasn’t going to be around long enough to enjoy the new pavement for the life of it, so why bother? He was mad because I stopped him after he ignored the flagman and went around him—and I stopped him from slamming into a roller that was coming out from between two very large dump trucks! Had I not stopped him, he could have been right about not being around to enjoy the new roads! Somehow this turned me into the bad guy!

     Typically, they are often involved directly in many aspects of the community, and if you want the latest gossip, they will happily fill you in. But this knowledge does come with a price; they are not afraid of asking questions! They want to know where they can park, when they can get back to their own driveways, when the roads will be open, and how long does it take for paint to dry?

     These last two generations do not do well with change at all! I just completed a property that had more than 20 miles of roadways and was an established community of 30-plus years. This community had three entrance/exit gates, but when the paving crew shut down the main entrance, all hell broke loose. Many elderly residents were lost! Their path of travel for the last 20 years has been one way and one way only. I cannot tell you how many residents had no idea there were two other entry/exits to their community and were truly shocked when they found out the hard way!

     Setting up a website or sending daily emails updating your residents on the progress of the project is a great start! Informing them of the best ways to travel through their neighborhood when certain areas are being worked on or providing designated parking areas with a shuttle service will help everyone become a part of the project but stay safe and happy, or at least as happy as they can be, while the community upgrades their largest asset.

     I have had some property managers seem to think that the residents didn’t need to be informed of the details at all. Unfortunately for them, when the project started and the phone calls started rolling in, it did not take long for them to realize the error of their ways and try to pick up the pieces with some very agitated residents!

     I have had other property managers and board members who took a different approach by setting up websites, posting daily flyers throughout their community, and notifying the residents in each work zone with flyers on their car of the upcoming closures. With all that, some residents remained agitated! My last group of property managers and board members did everything right! They hosted special meetings and posted flyers and overview maps at their entrance and in their clubhouse. They sent email blasts and hired police officers to help direct traffic and really thought they had all of their bases covered, yet some residents still remained agitated here as well!

     What’s the solution that will alleviate all agitated residents? Unfortunately, that is like looking for the Holy Grail. Remember our first premise, that some people simply do not like change. No matter what you do, some people cannot be pleased where change is involved, but all is not lost. What can you do? You can be available for the hard stuff (and I don’t mean alcohol). Do not avoid their phone calls and emails. Be prepared with answers and give them in a uniform manner. Start an information sheet that is directed at your community for this project and be prepared to hand it out. If you don’t have parking lots and only roadways, you will find that even though you are not affecting where they put their vehicles, you are affecting how they get there! With a carload of groceries and some rambunctious kids, even the over-achieving manager will feel they failed! They didn’t! Again, people just don’t like change!

     The old saying of “Plan your work and work your plan!” applies with any construction project in your community. Think of how you feel when you are driving into a community, running late for a board meeting, only to face a flagman, oblivious to your dire need to just get past him. What information could have been given to you that would have helped you navigate your way through the unfamiliar maze of a community you have been manager of for 10 years? That’s what your residents want! How do I….?

     Nothing will be easy when doing any type of roadway or parking lot in your community. NOTHING! Therefore, planning ahead, communicating, and being prepared are, by far, the best opportunities you will have at organizing your chaos! 

Connie Lorenz

Owner, Asphalt Restoration Technology Systems Inc. (AR Tech)

Asphalt Restoration Technology Systems Inc. (AR Tech) is led by Connie Lorenz, also known as the “Asphaltchick,” and provides education and consultation services on proper asphalt maintenance. As a multi-year recipient of the Florida Reader’s Choice Award and Pulse of the City Awards, and one the of Top 50 Asphalt Contractors in the country four years and running through Pavement Maintenance and Reconstruction Magazine, we are the team to turn to! We provide a no-cost, detailed evaluation, property specific, with our proposals and offer board presentations to explain the different options available for pavement maintenance today. For more information on Asphalt Restoration Technology Systems, call (800) 254-4732 or visit www.asphaltnews.com.