Capodagli Property Co.
Capodagli Property prides itself on jumpstarting redevelopment in overlooked communities.
By Tim O’Connor
George Capodagli wants his apartment buildings to be like “Cheers” – a place where everybody knows everybody. “The theme of ‘Cheers was where everybody belongs,” the New Jersey developer says. “That’s what we’ve worked towards.”
In every building, Capodagli Property Co. offers social spaces and events such as breakfast and yoga classes where tenants can mingle and get to know each other and interact in a social and professional atmosphere. “One of the things that is very important is the feeling of belonging,” he says. “We want people to feel like they belong.”
The company has taken this idea even further with its newest developments by including bars, restaurants and coffee shops within the buildings, giving tenants and the community another place to gather and get to know one another and be part of the Capodagli family. To oversee that effort, Capodagli Property hired restaurateur Nicholas Geeraerts as its director of hospitality. The first Capo’s Cafe restaurant will open this summer in Hackensack, N.J.
Capodagli started his namesake company in 1970 after purchasing and renovating a 20-unit apartment building in New Jersey. From there he began building two- and three-family homes in urban environments near train stations and local amenities. While other developers focused on top-tier luxury and high rents, Capodagli targeted moderate-income tenants: people who can afford $1,500 to $2,000 a month in rent. “The basic principle of the company hasn’t changed,” he says. “My mission statement was always to build to middle-of-the-road people.”
Tenants have rewarded the company for its approach with their loyalty. Capodagli Property retains 75 to 80 percent of its residents annually, much higher than the 54 percent national average for apartment renewals, according to MPF Research. “People don’t move out of our buildings,” Capodagli says. “They stay.”
The company’s apartments are especially appealing to young people who are living on their own for the first time and want to makes connections with their neighbors and the larger community – all within a safe environment. Every residence includes multiple security measures, including key fobs and camera systems that are accessible by phone that allow tenants to see the entire building. “They have a sense of security moving into our buildings because a lot of these people are just moving out of dorms or their parents’ houses,” Capodagli notes.
Combining a sense of community with competitively priced, quality apartments has accelerated Capodagli Property’s growth. The vertically integrated developer already owns and manages about 1,000 apartment units in New Jersey and has another 936 units under construction – half of which will be delivered this year.
Capodagli attributes the opportunity to double his company’s units in one year to its reputation among local municipalities and its personnel. In 2016, the Somerset County Planning Board recognized the company’s Meridia Main Street Station development in Bound Brook, N.J., as an exceptionally well-designed and planned residential project during its Annual Land Development and Planning Awards and awarded Capodagli Property “most cooperative developer.”
“Towns call us to come in because they know we will get it done,” Capodagli says. That often leads to repeat opportunities. In fact, every municipality Capodagli Property has worked in features multiple projects from the company. “We live up to what we say we’re going to do,” Capodagli adds.
Just as it targets middle-income tenants, Capodagli Property tends to develop its projects in less affluent towns – places that often haven’t seen a major residential project in years. The company identifies the potential of those cities early on and its projects jumpstart the community, creating a ripple effect in interest from other developers in new construction.
Within a few years, an entire city can undergo a transformation. “That catalyst impact you really have to see a few years down the line,” Capodagli claims. “We go into places that people have just overlooked. But they’re not overlooking them now because we’ve shown them this is a possibility.”
Capodagli Property’s newest development, Meridia Transit Plaza in Dover, N.J., is another example of how the company sparks reinvestment in a community. Development in the northern New Jersey town was stagnant for two-and-a-half decades before local officials reached out to Capodagli Property. The company agreed to build a $57 million, 212-unit residential mixed-use project with retail and restaurant space. Work began on the project in July 2017 and Capodagli Property is already eyeing a second development in the city.
“God judges us on who we’ve helped in life, whether it be towns or people,” Capodagli says.
As a family-owned company, Capodagli Property prioritizes treating its tenants and employees personally, and encourages workers to bring forth ideas to streamline their roles or enhance a property’s environment. “There’s just a lot of sense of pride in what everybody does,” Vice President Brian Pfistner says.
“We attract some of the best talent in the country. People come from all over looking for jobs or internships because they believe in the concept.”
Keeping that talent pipeline flowing is one of Capodagli’s biggest priorities. He encourages bright young people to submit their resumes. “We want them to dream their dreams and we’ll give them the power to fill them out moneywise,” he says. “People are the most important thing in my company.”
To help those young professionals develop their skills, Capodagli has instituted cross-training programs. “The goal is to have them think as a business owner: ‘How does this impact the day-to-day operation?,’” CFO Ankit Duggal says. “Additionally, this year, the company is asking every employee if there is an adjacent business to real estate development and management they are interested in, and then is helping them learn the skills they need for that role so that Capodagli Property can expand its capabilities in those areas.
Having perfected its approach to tenant relationships and employee development, Capodagli Property believes it’s ready to bring those qualities to other real estate developers. “We’re looking to grow our third-party property management business,” he says.