Constructing Communities That Care
While the concept of creating thriving communities is making a welcome comeback in the real estate development industry, it is rare to hear of a residential and commercial property developer that caps long-term residents’ rent after five years. In honor of its founder, the late Robert Lay Grubb, Jr., Grubb Properties’ multi-family units are built with quality living in mind.
Grubb Properties is a full-service developer and property operating company with its own finance and investment teams, as well as a dedicated construction division. It also provides complete management for commercial and multi-family properties with property managers, regional managers, and a host of support services such as maintenance.
The firm started in 1963 and spent its early years building residential units in Davidson County, North Carolina. Over the course of the next fifty-five years, its portfolio steadily expanded to where it is today – an accomplished, southeastern real estate giant with as much heart as the man who first started it.
Mr. Grubb’s dream was to give people homes they could afford, and in those days, it was often African-American families who were denied home loans in certain neighborhoods. To help these families own homes, he started a finance division to make this dream a reality. Today, Grubb Properties is represented in Charlotte, Cary, and Lexington in North Carolina and Atlanta in Georgia and is wholly owned by its directorate and its team.
Corporate Communications Manager Emily Ethridge told us a bit more about this exemplary firm’s work. “Mr. Grubb was all for helping people when he started out, and now our latest project is continuing that legacy of helping people,” she says. “Our motto is ‘People who care, places that matter.’ We’re trying to build the places that matter to people. It’s been in our DNA since day one,” says Emily.
For Grubb Properties, construction is about building multi-family products that allow people to form proud communities, and this is part of why its long-term rentals deal was introduced. As a result, the company has tenants who have lived in its properties for over twenty years, and one even boasts ninety-eight families who have lived there for over five years. “Grubb Properties thinks about the bigger picture – keeping in mind that at the end of the day, we’re building people’s homes,” says Emily.
Being upfront is part of the firm’s signature style. It also prides itself on the fact that it is very clear from the beginning regarding what will and will not work and insists on honesty from everyone involved, including its partners and financiers. This ensures a win for everyone involved, from its tenants to its investors.
The company’s growth is very healthy, and its latest flagship project is contributing in a very positive way. The Link Apartments brand – a high-quality, yet affordable value-oriented housing solution for working people – is changing the face of urban living and also offering suitable apartments for young people who are starting out.
Most folks in its ideal market earn between 80 and 120 percent of the area’s median income, including many who are working in health care or education. Through its focus on location, basis, and design, the company is able to build new apartments in desirable urban neighborhoods that are still affordable to that group, which is broadly underserved by the current housing market. Each building’s community amenities are also great and include a fitness center, dog park, pool, beautiful clubhouse, and typically a lovely outdoor area to hang out.
The interiors have modern fixtures and fittings, with kitchens sporting granite counter tops and ergonomic design. Despite all the lovely trimmings, these units are kept exceptionally affordable thanks to strict building standards and realistic expenditure goals. So far, the project is so successful that the company has become particularly popular for these sought-after apartments, and its reputation for being a trustworthy and efficient property manager is fast spreading throughout the southeast and beyond.
Grubb Properties has evolved in many ways over the years. From building homes to acquiring and operating larger multifamily communities in the seventies, it became North Carolina’s biggest investment condominium builder in the 1980s, pioneering the conversion of apartments to condos. In the nineties, the company started buying, improving, and releasing around 700,000 square feet of existing office space and 2,000 apartment homes. At the time, the focus was much more on adding value rather than on development, which only really started taking off in the early 2000s when Grubb Properties started taking on large developments and new construction in a big way.
Its astute business acumen has led the company to become a vertically integrated real estate operating company with a vast portfolio of achievements, including over four million square feet of commercial space and over 15,000 residential units in acquisition and development projects throughout America’s southeast.
Grubb Properties’ next project is one that follows nearly ten years of working closely with the town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Glen Lennox Apartments and Shopping Center has been under the company’s ownership for over thirty years, with 440 apartment homes less than one mile from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The company is about to start redevelopment after listening closely to the needs of residents and neighbors and figuring out exactly what type of development would suit the area best. Its caring approach and building close relationships with communities have led to its success over the years.
The company is no stranger to receiving accolades for all this good work. Its impressive list of awards for 2017 alone includes SatisFacts’ Superior Company Score Award and Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s Imprint Award for its Link Apartments Glenwood South. Link Apartments Glenwood South also scored thirty-second place out of a total of 60,000 communities in an online reputation poll by Multifamily Executive Magazine. This building, Link Apartments West End, and Sterling TownCenter Apartments, were also awarded National Green Building Standard certifications last year, while its property at 525 North Tryon in Charlotte was awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver certification.
Leading the company’s vision and reputation for integrity is Chief Executive Officer Clay Grubb. “He cares very deeply about this and is very thoughtful. He always thinks long-term. He considers the bigger picture nationally and how that really affects peoples’ lives,” says Emily. “We have a reputation for being a good company because we have honest people who work hard.” And this connection to its market’s everyday experience is what really makes Grubb Properties different.
This caring for people is also reflected in the length of time that its workforce of around two hundred employees has been with the company. There is a wonderful sense of teamwork, something that recently won it Charlotte Business Journal’s award for one of the best companies for which to work. Its support of its team’s growth is visible throughout the firm, with Vice President Sherry Long perhaps being one of its finest examples. Sherry started out as a property manager fifteen years ago, and today, she is at the forefront of the company’s investor relations. The collaborative landscape allows space for advancement, and as a result, people flourish.
“We really encourage people to learn new skills and grow and move up through the company. We think that’s a big part of our success,” says Emily. Employees are also encouraged to and supported in giving back to their communities. Grubb Properties provides its people with forty-eight hours of paid leave each year to volunteer at causes of their choice in just one of the many ways in which it helps make the world a kinder place. This year, the company is also partnering with Habitat for Humanity in Winston Salem, North Carolina where it will donate a house, and the entire company will take time out to help build it.
The company’s caring also goes beyond its employees, community, and market to the much greater sphere of the environment. Green Building Standard certifications are a top priority where applicable, and, as a former board member, its CEO has played an active role in the policy-making of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The company also takes part in the EDF’s Climate Corps fellowship program, assisting graduate students in creating and implementing positive environmental change initiatives.
It also supports the housing market in various ways. One of the greatest market challenges that Grubb Properties is set to solve for its clients this year and in the future is the rising cost of construction. This is mainly ascribed to rising demand but is also due to a lack of suitable land in desirable areas. To this end, the company is working closely with local governments and municipalities to build its new Link Apartments at an affordable price. The apartments can be seen in Charleston, South Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina; and new development is underway in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and will soon come to Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. Introducing this quality product into more good communities no doubt makes Grubb Properties’ new brand the link to affordable, quality family living for everyone.