Meet Daniel Moritz, a principal at The Arker Cos., a New York-based developer that owns more than 5,700 affordable housing units.
The company is active in both new construction and preservation and has had projects in various stages of development in all five New York City boroughs this year.
The firm is a third-generation family-owned company started by Aron Arker. It is now led by Aron’s sons, Sol and Allan Arker; Sol’s son, Alex Arker; and Allan’s son-in-law, Moritz.
The company recently closed on its single-largest deal, the Morrisania Preservation Portfolio. Tell us a little about it.
This is a very exciting project for us. As a company we’ve focused on both new construction and preservation of affordable housing. This was the largest preservation transaction that we’ve worked on to date, totaling 676 units over 17 buildings and development costs of over $150 million. The buildings have seen little to no capital improvements for decades and this will breathe new life into the buildings.
Does this project signal any new directions for the company?
Over the past few years we’ve been willing to take on more challenging developments, both larger and more complex, and the Morrisania project is a perfect example. It required a level of risk that we probably wouldn’t have taken five years ago.
How is the company changing?
The company has been growing rapidly over the past few years. We’ve significantly enlarged the construction wing of our company to help manage current and future pipeline and expanded the development and property management teams as well. Our developments have been growing in size, but also in sustainability. We’ve become very conscious of energy conservation and smart building. Almost all of our new construction projects feature solar panels and we’ve seen great energy efficiency on preservation transactions through the installation of cogeneration facilities.
The Arker Cos. is a longtime family-owned firm. What’s been the key to the firm’s success?
As a member of the third generation, we’ve had a lot of success as a family company by creating a partnership of equals. We don’t make decisions by majority, but by consensus. So, we will only move forward on projects if all partners agree that it’s best for the company. We’ve also been successful by adapting. The affordable housing industry in New York is ever changing, with programs and policies varying from administration to administration. To be successful in New York, we’ve had to constantly evolve our thinking and business focus. Today, we are lucky to be in an environment in New York where both the governor and mayor of New York City have made affordable housing a top priority on their respective agendas.
When you visit one of your properties, what do you look for?
We take great pride that our buildings blend into the fabric of the neighborhood, and provide clean, safe and attractive housing for our residents. Nobody would ever walk down the street and pick out our buildings as “affordable housing.”
What do you do better now than a year ago?
We have done a better job in the past year building the pipeline for the future. With land pricing in New York (in all boroughs) reaching levels we’ve never seen before, we’ve needed to turn our focus to re-zonings and other land use applications. This has, somewhat unintentionally, led us to some very large sites that will help build our pipeline for the next decade.
Favorite part of your job:
I like to hear the stories from our residents. We recently held a ribbon cutting for a new project in Queens. A woman came up to me with her children and simply thanked me for providing a beautiful new home for her and her family. There is no greater reward in our business.
Favorite business book and why?
Setting the Table, by Danny Meyer. I have enormous respect for Danny Meyer, both as a restauranteur and entrepreneur. His book speaks to a philosophy of “enlightened hospitality” that should be applied to doing business in any industry. I try to apply the principles in that book to the way that I interact with people in all facets of business, from bankers to government officials to contractors.
Besides the usual work papers, what’s in your office?
bottles and pictures of my wife and two sons.