When Mitch Broder enrolled at Rutgers University as a political science major in 1984, New Brunswick was a much different city – a far cry from all of the high-end residential housing that has been constructed over the past two decades.
After a short stint in the dorms, Broder and his buddies moved off-campus to a house on Louis Street, which would best be described as run-down at the time. With rents hovering around $300 a month, per bed, there was not much that could be expected of the place.
Four walls, heat and working plumbing seemed all that an off-campus Rutgers student could ask for in the mid-1980s.
While Broder, a Matawan native, moved from one beat-up house to another during his college days, he saw great, untapped opportunity in New Brunswick. Graduating with his college friends in 1987, he decided to hang back and see if he had a future in the city’s real estate market.
New Brunswick was poised to welcome a young, scrappy guy like Broder.
The Hub City was on the brink of its renaissance and there was plenty of older housing stock that could be bought on the cheap, even as low as $60,000 for a down-and-out, two-family home. So, even in his early 20s, Broder began buying houses on Suydam Street, Remsen Avenue and others, renovating them with plenty of his own sweat.
“I found my degree in political science to be very helpful, especially at that time,” he recalled. “I needed to communicate with people, work with the city to share my vision and understand how the approval process works. I was amazed at how my Rutgers education prepared me for this job, the only one I’ve had after graduating.”
As Broder slowly began accumulating properties, in search of the unearthed gems that other investors had happily passed over, he realized that he could fill an important niche: Providing off-campus RU students with quality homes that even Mom and Dad would be OK with.
“I remember hiring a handyman with a truck to handle the renovations,” Broder recalled. “I told him I wanted to learn everything he knew about construction. Before I could truly sell the product, I wanted to fully understand every facet of it. So, I put on a tool belt and served as his assistant. I learned invaluable lessons about the business.”
In the early 1990s, Broder connected with his business partner of the last 25 years, Laszlo Salamon, known around town as “Les.” Salamon had already been in the construction business for close to 20 years and operated various New Brunswick-based businesses, including Hub City Construction.
With Broder handling the marketing and administrative side of the business, and Salamon running the construction and field operations, the pair launched Construction Management Associates Inc.
“Along with Mitch, I, too, always knew that New Brunswick had tremendous upside. It was just a matter of getting boots on the ground and doing the heavy lifting,” Salamon said. The construction company operates to this day with the property management operation, Premier Properties of New Brunswick.
Broder and Salamon began their work together on Bayard Street, buying up abandoned commercial properties and steadily building a real estate portfolio. And they’ve never looked back.
Over the years, CMA has built or developed more than 500 housing units in New Brunswick, while Premier Properties of New Brunswick has approximately 350 housing units in under management in the city. All of units are either newly built or renovated apartment complexes serving both Rutgers students and others who want to live in new, modern housing within the 292-year-old city.
“With Rutgers in the Big Ten, students are arriving on campus with an expectation for quality off-campus housing, just like what they would see at other major universities like the University of Michigan, University of Texas, Ohio State, etc.” said Broder, who is company president. “We have fulfilled that need, creating the type of attractive, safe, modern off-campus housing that helps Rutgers better compete for students.”
The goal of any developer catering to Rutgers students is to find properties as close as possible to College Avenue, making these apartments both popular and convenient for a student rushing off to class.
That is why Premier Properties has carefully orchestrated a 20-year journey to rehabilitate as much of Union Street – RU’s old fraternity row – as possible. The firm has built numerous amenity-filled buildings, featuring on-site gyms, garage parking, bright lobbies and plenty of other attractions you never would have found in the old, now-demolished frat houses.
The company markets its properties on the row as “Union Street,” with scarlet red and black banners identifying the district and connecting it closely to the university.
“We find that one of the most important features of our properties is the professionally designed interiors,” said Broder, noting the firm works exclusively work with celebrity designer Blanch Garcia of B. Garcia Design. “The interior design product that she produces for us is invaluable.”
With rents ranging from $800-$1,500 a month, per bed, there are apartments with a wide variety of amenities. Premier Properties offers studio, one, two- and, in a few cases, three-bedroom apartments on 12-month leases. All buildings are professionally maintained and managed, with electronic entrance door locking systems, around-the-clock video surveillance systems and exterior and common-area lighting.
Premier Properties’ main concentration of Rutgers housing is on Easton Avenue, Union Street, Mine Street and Sicard Street, all within walking distance to the university, as well as to the New Brunswick Train Station and the city’s downtown. The company also operates properties father from the campus, at Louis, Hamilton and Maple streets which offer relatively lower rents than the properties closer to campus.
The company is based at 205 Easton Ave., which is in walking distance to most of its properties. Broder said that is another selling point, as the company is hands-on and provides face-to-face service for any tenant with an issue or question.
For the upcoming school year, Broder said, the large majority of units are leased; a few remain for a Sept. 1 occupancy. Learn more at premierpropertiesofnewbrunswick.com
Jonathan Jaffe is president & CEO of Jaffe Communications, Inc., which provides public relations services for Premier Properties of New Brunswick.n