Urban Edge Properties, under the leadership of Cecilia Li, Chief Information Officer, has engaged Open Box as a strategic partner for MRI for over five years. As the company’s Real Estate financial enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, MRI is an integral part of the company’s day-to-day business. The goal of the partnership was to proactively tailor and enhance the platform in order to maximize the company’s investment and ensure that business users are guaranteed the best MRI experience.
As a retail property owner and manager, recovering expenses from tenants is a core business component. Urban Edge recently requested that Open Box assist with the enhancement of its recovery processes, which can be time-consuming and require a lot of manual effort to generate accurate data for billing and accruals. While the MRI Recoveries Module is one of the most powerful and robust in the industry, Urban Edge requested specific enhancements that would meet unique business requirements. MRI’s flexible and customizable platform ensured that Open Box would be able to make the necessary changes.
“Open Box is an exceptional partner for Urban Edge. Their meticulous approach to comprehending challenges and their expertise in crafting solutions through astute critical thinking is truly remarkable.”
Cecilia Li – Chief Information Officer
The enhancements encompassed a wide variety of recovery calculations, processes, and functionality. In collaboration with Urban Edge business stakeholders, Open Box successfully delivered about 30 projects over a 12 month time period. The Open Box process included requirements gathering and producing detailed documentation on all customizations. Open Box also managed all of the Development, Quality Assurance, User Acceptance Testing (UAT), Training and Project Management.
Some of the key enhancements related to real estate Tax, Common Area Maintenance (CAM) and Capital Expenditures (CAPEX) included the following:
- Creating Tax Parcel Expense Journal Entries – To improve the accuracy of tax-related journal expenses and prevent overstating tax expenses, Urban Edge introduced a workflow to capture tax parcels. The workflow ensured that different users and user roles were responsible for capturing and approving the journal entries before posting them to the general ledger. In addition, a Spreadsheet Server Query was created to report on all historical tax expenses for reporting and future budgeting purposes.
- Contribution Calculation Enhancements – Urban Edge requested an enhancement to the MRI GetGL process to accurately calculate contribution floors. The out-the-box GetGL process only allowed users to calculate for leased or leasable contributions but not both. Urban Edge requested that both leased and leasable contributions were calculated to allow the system to compare the results and determine the correct values to be used. As a result, business users were no longer required to calculate any of the contributions manually as these were now generated automatically in MRI. In addition, a workflow was introduced to automatically generate the GetGL process without user intervention. The workflow would also notify the business users once the process was completed, saving up to 3 hours of effort required by the business users in a single day.
- Recovery Formula Calculations – Urban Edge requested enhancements to their recovery formulas utilized in the MRI Billing Worksheets to ensure that they were more simplified and tailored for all scenarios. This included catering for leases with different admin. fees and cap types across tenants for CAM, Tax and Capex recoveries. This resulted in business users saving approximately 2-4 days of work in a month.
- Tenant Invoice Customizations – All invoices were modified to align with the recovery formula calculations detailed above to ensure that the calculations generated in the MRI Billing Worksheets were accurately displayed for each tenant. The enhancement ensured that the invoices displayed sufficient detail and summaries on the expenses and how the estimated charges were calculated.
- User Experience Changes – Reviewing recovery calculations can be confusing if you are not familiar with the details of the lease. To assist all users reviewing anything recovery-related, Open Box added insights onto web pages and reports, adding more detail explaining the results of the recovery calculations.
- Deferring and Recognizing Revenue – Urban Edge requested enhancements to the process that allows them to generate accruals and deferrals for tenants that pay in advance. Open Box ensured that the values generated were calculated from the correct and accurate sources and were aligned to their specific accounting rules.
“Open Box has established themselves as a dependable and trusted resource to our organization by taking the time to understand our business, processes, and operational challenges and subsequently turning them into technology-based solutions which have provided meaningful time savings and business insights allowing for effective management and oversight of the organization and our processes.”
Robert Vergara, SVP, Property Accounting
Overall, Open Box was able to assist Urban Edge with increasing data integrity and automating its recovery processes. This ultimately reduced the level of manual intervention required by business users during critical processing periods, allowing more time for analysis to verify accuracy and improve reporting. The enhancements also ensured the majority of property and lease recovery scenarios are catered for by the system, increasing visibility and transparency in the process.
Urban Edge Properties is a NYSE listed real estate investment trust focused on managing, acquiring, developing, and redeveloping retail real estate in urban communities, primarily in the Washington, D.C. to Boston corridor. Urban Edge owns 76 properties totalling 17.2 million square feet of gross leasable area.