(Scroll down for a list of local Texas real estate contacts who are offering assistance.)

NEW YORK CITY-Whether it’s in terms of specific clients or more widespread relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the industry is responding to the emergency on a variety of fronts. But it’s clear that, just as the nation as a whole struggles to get its mind around a natural disaster of these proportions, the industry is routing for answers beyond the immediate need of shelter and necessities.

Cushman & Wakefield finds itself with a unique challenge and responsibility. For just as Entergy provides New Orleans with its electrical power, C&W provides Entergy with its office and operational space–some 5.9 million sf in all four affected states: Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi–including its corporate headquarters at Poydras Plaza across from the Superdome in New Orleans.

“We’re servicing them by keeping critical operations up and running, including the key data centers in the Greater New Orleans area,” reports Michael Mire, senior managing director in C&W’s Houston office. Mire reports that it’s the below-radar details that become critical, such as the small Houston roofing contractor who was dispatched to New Orleans to patch a hole in the roof of a data center, or the spare generators discovered in a San Antonio contractor’s back lot and assigned to the Entergy HQ.

With phone lines down in what is amounting to 2005′s Ground Zero, “It’s virtually impossible to reach local contractors,” Mire says. “So all triage has to be done from Texas.”

The firm has also flung open its Houston doors to house Entergy and C&W people and dispatched more than 20 trailers to the Big Easy to support line crews of the energy supplier. Simultaneously, “we’re helping other clients identify needs and give them options for temporary office space outside of the area.”

“There is 10 to 20 times the damage that we suffered in 9/11,” John Santora, executive vice president of asset services for Cushman, tells GlobeSt.com. As part of the rebuilding process, the firm is already formulating a plan of attack to order necessary supplies such as sheetrock, lighting fixtures and carpeting that might become in short supply. “We’re starting to estimate and order items so when we can repair, we’ll be ready. It’s going to take years. It will come back.”

For Jones Lang LaSalle the critical operation seems to be to assess damage and make the most immediate repairs necessary. “We have emergency response teams in all the effected areas,” says a spokesperson.

For Elke Laughlin, director of brokerage services in Houston for CB Richard Ellis (713-840-6543 in Houston), the focus now is more localized. She tells GlobeSt.com that the firm, in conjunction with its locally headquartered LJ Melody unit, is mounting a campaign to stock the local Texas shelters, including the Astrodome, which will be accommodating as many as 25,000 evacuees. “There are numerous shelters between Beaumont and Houston,” says the Louisiana native, explaining that her office is raising money to buy “large quantities of supplies, including cots, air mattresses and other basic necessities, toothpaste and baby whites.”

As grass-roots efforts at local offices mobilize, corporate policies concerning relief efforts continue to shape up. All three majors cited here are still putting finishing touches on their plans, but early outlines are becoming available. CBRE spokespeople are talking about “creating a vehicle through which employees can contribute to relief efforts alongside the company. At this point, we can say that there will be a company matching program available to all employees on a global basis. We will formally announce this next week, at which point we’ll have more specific information. The company-employee contributions will go to the Red Cross’ Hurricane 2005 Relief.” CBRE did a similar match program last year to support relief efforts that followed the tsunami in Southeast Asia. As other corporate responses become known, GlobeSt.com will report on them.

With the news getting more grim with each passing day, building owners in Houston and Dallas are offering free office and industrial space. BOMA Houston has added a directory to its website, listing available space for Gulf Coast businesses looking to set up temporary shops in Texas.

Displaced tenants looking for space can call C&W’s Andy Ghertner, 404-875-1000. The go-to guy for JLL is Bruce Rutherford, at 713-374-7281.

In Houston, Hartman Management LP (713-467-2222) is donating the use of 30 executive suites at 11811 North Freeway “to any legitimate Louisiana business that had to uproot due to the storm.” The free space includes immediate connectivity for Internets and telephones.

Mike Hill with Hill Properties, also in Houston, (713-305-6565) has clients offering free industrial space to displaced businesses.

In McKinney, north of Dallas, Mycon General Contractors (972-529-2444) has four executive suites available–free to a Gulf Coast business in need of assistance.

Crescent Real Estate Equities Co. (817-321-2100) is offering its New Orleans customers free office space for the first 30 days and charging only operating expenses if the stay is longer.

TIG Real Estate Services in Dallas is offering to help businesses find temporary operating space. “We are putting our entire team into this effort. We will do all the legwork necessary to relocate them. We will find the space they need on an interim basis,” says John Walsh, president, “and the tenant will not pay anything.”

In some locations, space availability includes day-by-day and month-to-month occupancy, Walsh says. TIG has offices in Dallas/Fort Worth, Memphis, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. The Dallas corporate number is 972-661-0232; Walsh, 214-546-5328.

Other national players have already crystallized their attack on the problem, and NorthMarq Capital Inc. has announced a donation to the American Red Cross Hurricane 2005 Relief of $50,000, and the expansion of its employee matching of $50,000 specifically for Hurricane Katrina disaster relief.

In addition, published reports reveal that firms such as Citigroup and JP Morgan have unveiled fund-matching programs with their employees. Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors has raised nearly $1.2 million for the cause.

Needless to say, the story of relief efforts will be ongoing, as the full extent of the damage and the challenges of rebuilding come to light. “Yesterday, I thought the damage could have been worse,” comments a spokesperson for the Port of New Orleans. “Today, I’m not so sure. It won’t be overnight, but eventually we will bounce back.”

But at what cost? As one source states, “This will overwhelm the insurance companies.” Yet, for now, in the days after the disaster, that isn’t the issue. “No one is talking about money at this time,” Mire says. “We’re all just trying to help.”

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