60 Years of Real Estate: How Towne Properties Is Taking the Lead
CEO Adam Bortz touches on the company’s long-standing principles and what it takes to successfully stay in business while planning for the future.
With a well-established goal for providing great places to live, work, shop and play, Towne Properties has been engaged in property development and management services for no less than six decades. And the company intends to “use 2021 as a jumping-off point to look toward the next 60 years of business,” Adam Bortz, Towne Properties’ CEO, told Multi-Housing News.
In the interview below, he discusses key strategies for long-lasting success and what it takes to overcome challenges in the real estate industry. From the shift that construction services have undergone since the onset of the health crisis to the vital role technology plays and will continue to play in Towne’s everyday activities, Bortz shares his insights and plans.
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Can you tell us what it takes to stay in business and remain successful for such a long period of time?
Bortz: Towne Properties’ longevity stems from two key business strategies. First, our core belief that we exist to build better communities drives our entire business. When you do the right thing, success follows. Second, we have a diversified business model that allows us to adapt to real estate’s cyclical nature. This integrated approach enables us to be nimble and has contributed to the longevity of Towne Properties.
When it comes to development, Towne is known for focusing on quality. Can you think of a challenging project that eventually turned out to be a success story?
Bortz: One project that exemplifies our commitment to quality is DeSales Flats II in Cincinnati. It was a challenging project because it had to complement two existing communities, DeSales Flats and The Residences at DeSales Plaza, while bringing a new level of quality to meet market demands. Our in-house construction team and development group worked tirelessly to source high quality, modern products and materials while using our buying power to stay within budget.
The result is a LEED Gold-certified building with modern amenities like bicycle parking, an electric car charging station, a saltwater pool and ample community space with in-unit features like a stacked washer/dryer, soaking tubs and quartz countertops.
How much have construction services changed in the past 12 months?
Bortz: It’s an exciting space to be in right now. In some key markets, we’ve seen construction demand stay steady or even increase. In most markets, construction costs are high due to the impact of the pandemic on labor and material markets. We are fortunate that we have experience in sourcing quality products at a competitive price. At the same time, our access to multiple financial institutions allows us to structure loans that fit each project’s needs.
Your company is also involved in renovations. How has the pandemic impacted your activity?
Bortz: Before COVID-19, occupied renovations were the majority of our projects. We would be in a unit for a day or two, completing value-add renovations to crucial areas like kitchens and bathrooms. We’ve paused all occupied renovations for the safety of residents, our staff and our vendor partners. Moving away from occupied renovations allowed us to focus on exterior projects that enhanced the communities and resident experience while keeping everyone safe.
What can you tell us about occupancy levels at the multifamily properties you manage? How has occupancy fluctuated in the past year?
Bortz: Last year was interesting because we did not know what to expect. The typical leasing season was thrown off track and we were all waiting to see how occupancy trends would follow. It was incredible because, through everything, we saw minimal fluctuation in our occupancy rates.
We have a high resident satisfaction within our communities; 92 percent of our residents will recommend their apartment community to a friend. Additionally, with some amenities and social events put on hold, we put a tremendous amount of effort into keeping our residents engaged. We believe those two factors kept our occupancy trends steady.
One of the ways Towne Properties responded to the pandemic was its 2020 United Way Campaign. How has the campaign helped the community? Are there any other similar efforts the company is engaged in?
Bortz: Giving back to the community is engrained into our culture. We knew that our corporate and local community partners would need our support now more than ever with the pandemic. Specifically, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati supports local agencies and families, and so we knew every dollar raised this year held great significance.
We are so proud of our associates involved in that campaign to support our community at a time of great need. Every November, our apartment communities and district offices participate in our Month of Giving. A month-long campaign dedicated to supporting local nonprofits. In 2020, we supported 21 organizations across the seven markets we serve. We anticipate that the 2021 Month of Giving will offer more assistance to those affected by the pandemic.
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How much does your company rely on technology to carry out daily activities?
Bortz: Technology is the backbone of Towne Properties. We rely on an enterprise software system, Yardi, to connect the business operations of our properties and district offices to our vendors, residents, homeowners and condo owners. Additionally, we’ve focused heavily on integrating with Office 365 and several of their productivity apps. We are in the people business and technology allows us to streamline operations to give our associates more time to interact with our customers.
How has Yardi’s Asset IQ changed the way Towne monitors its multifamily portfolio?
Bortz: Asset IQ is a massive focus for Towne Properties in 2021 because, even though we’ve fully embraced it as a tool, the amount of data and insights are endless. We started using it in 2019 and were amazed at the breadth of portfolio and property-level data. Not only can we see our data, which allows us to recognize trends and pivot, but we can see benchmarks for core business KPIs, which is a game-changer.
Our industry changes so rapidly that it is crucial for us to monitor our competition so that we can continue to provide our residents with the best experience at our properties.
What are your top three plans for 2021?
Bortz: Sixtieth-anniversary celebration. Future growth. Technology. 2021 is an exceptional year for Towne Properties as we celebrate 60 years of “Great Places to Live, Work, Shop and Play.” We get to honor our past by celebrating our anniversary through company-wide events and employee engagement activities.
We will also use 2021 as a jumping-off point to look toward the next 60 years of business to define what future growth looks like for Towne. Technology will be a massive part of our growth plans and we will continue the adoption of technology within Towne.