RMK Management coordinated an in-place retrofit of sprinklers into McClurg Court Center, a 1,061-unit duplex tower in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood.

Diana Pittro likes to talk about the time she and her team batted 1.000 in multifamily’s perpetual rehab derby.

It was in Chicago, where the executive vice president helps oversee RMK Management Corporation’s 9,800-unit portfolio of owned and fee-managed apartments. The pitch her team got? An in-place retrofit of sprinklers into McClurg Court Center, a 1,061-unit duplex tower in the city’s Streeterville neighborhood.

“We tore up their apartments,” Pittro says. “I mean, doors open all day long on four floors at a time so the contractors could get access, moving items in their apartments on a daily basis, plastic in their units and in the hallways. We did it every day for six months.”

And yet, when all was said and done, after the dust had settled and all the sprinklers were in place, Pittro hadn’t lost a single resident to the commotion.

“Not only didn’t we lose anyone, we actually had residents giving us kudos,” Pittro beams. “We used those in our marketing for over a year.”

RMK plastered the praise on its Facebook pages, grabbed testimonials from residents, and even showcased the poetry of one McClurg Court denizen who was inspired by the whole ordeal.

“The guys who trooped all through our place were really very nice,” the resident wrote. “The banter back and forth was fun. Work habits: quite precise.”

The key to Pittro and RMK’s success? Leveraging technology and communication before, during and after the rehab. By developing, updating and communicating a scope of work to her staff and contractors before the project even started, she made sure all of her personnel were on the same page well before day one. Then, making sure residents always knew what to expect, she took the frustration of unpleasant surprises out of the equation.

Finally, when the work was done, RMK highlighted the project both offline and in the real world to make sure residents and prospects knew the story from beginning to end.

“It was a big deal for us,” Pittro says. “It cost  $50,000 on the campaign alone, but in the grand scheme of things, to not lose anyone, it was money well spent.” Her last point is emphasized by McClurg Court’s average rent, around $2,300 a month.

Joe Bousquin is a contributing editor for Multifamily Executive.