Mill Hill Renovation

Emery Expands

New in Town


Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July

22, 1998. All rights reserved.

Daniel Popkin: First Properties

You don’t need to be rich to be a redeveloper of


says Daniel Popkin of First Properties. He started small, buying a

Victorian brownstone in the Mill Hill section of Trenton for $1,000

in 1982. "I’ve been doing deals ever since," says Popkin.

"Banks lend me money and they invest in me."

Last July Popkin and a group of investors bought a shell of a building

at 8 Commerce Drive, part of Hamilton’s Gateway Business Park. Popkin

paid $560,000 for the 30,000 square foot building with 3.31 acres.

Designed by Pennington architect Peter Lokhammer, it has been


fitted out for Emery Worldwide, and Emery has just held its grand

opening (see following story).

Until now most of Popkin’s work has been with old buildings. So what’s

the attraction in this concrete structure with its alternating stripes

of terra cotta and beige. "It’s a drop dead pretty building,"

says Popkin, "with big windows and pretty colors." Beyond

that, though, is location. Created in 1982, Gateway Business Park

is adjacent to I-195 and the intersection of Yardville/Hamilton Square

Road, less than one-half mile from Route 130, and sandwiched between

I-295 and the Turnpike.

For part of 1.1 million square feet of retail and office space nearby,

a Home Depot has just been approved, and Wal-Mart hopes to make a

pitch to the planning board soon.

"I have always had an interest in it," says Popkin,


it is so visible from I-195. And I think that corridor is the next

Route 1. Hamilton’s hot, I-295 is so close, and it doesn’t have the

traffic that the Princeton corridor has," says Popkin.

Gateway Business Park has just a few lots left, and Popkin owns one

of them, across the street from the Emery building. On the property

across the street he can build up to 75,000 feet. "For that I

would like to build a one-story laboratory for one to four


He is in discussions with architects and hopes to break ground next


Actually, Lokhammer designed seven buildings at Gateway, but only

two were built, 8 Crossroads Drive and a 22,000-foot flex building

for Thulman Eastern Corporation at 1 Crossroads Drive. When the


195 Partnership went bankrupt, the other buildings had to remain on

the drawing board. The 8 Crossroads Drive building ended up in a bad

loan pool, and Steve Tolcash of Buschman Jackson-Cross, representing

the lead debtor (Fleet Bank), sold it to Popkin.

"It’s the next growth corridor in the county," concurs


"They’re calling it the next 8A." Eleven miles south of Exit

8A and just two miles away from Gateway Business Park, Matrix and

Reckson Realty Associates are developing 450-plus acres at Northeast

Business Park for such tenants as Amway, McLean Engineering, and Hann

& DePalma. Tolcash notes that there is a dearth of commercial property

between Exit 8 and Exit 5 (less than 8 million square feet) compared

to 25 million feet at 8A, where many of the available lots are miles

away from the interchange.

An alumnus of Georgetown University, Class of 1982, Popkin did


work in political economy at the New School for Social Research. He

is married to Pamela Katten, a deputy attorney general for the state,

and they have a seven-year-old son.

Popkin’s late grandmother, May Medoff, was a mover and shaker in


A good friend of the late mayor Arthur Holland, she was a long-time

member of the Trenton planning board and was active in the literary

organizations. "She was a big supporter of being an


says Popkin. "She and her husband and her husband’s father started

York Luggage in the ’40s, and that gave her a lot of entrepreneurial

experience. She thought it was OK to take risks." (Popkins’


now run York Luggage.)

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Mill Hill Renovation

With his brother Jimmy (then a reporter for the Trenton Times) Daniel

Popkin bought and renovated a brownstone in the Mill Hill section of

Trenton and lived there five years. Then he started acquiring other

buildings — Victorian brownstones and old factory buildings in


"The real thing that led me to it is that I was living on the

Lower East Side and working as a carpenter through graduate school.

I drove through Trenton to visit my grandparents, and I saw the


stock of buildings that were relatively inexpensive. I thought, why

can’t Trenton have a revival?"

He has done three "picture perfect" Victorian brownstones

across the street from the State House that house a Philadelphia


a teacher’s union, and a lobbying group.

Perhaps his most spectacular renovation to date is the Stockham Arts

Building in Morrisville, Built in 1910 as a 20,000-foot office


with a retail space occupied by Pryor’s Pharmacy, it is an elegant

four-story structure at Bridge Street & East Pennsylvania Avenue,

just over the bridge from Trenton. It is now occupied by a barbershop,

a used record store, a dentist, and an architect, and it has 6,000

square feet (2,000 foot minimum) available for lease starting at $5

triple net.

Popkin’s most recent purchase is a another old factory-type building,

a 25,000 foot warehouse, formerly belonging to Belmont Forwarders,

on North Union Street in Lambertville. Popkin has prepared a lease

for Stockton-based Mill Ballet School and the Hunterdon Youth Ballet,

founded by Mark Roxey & Melissa Taylor, both alumni of the American

Repertory Ballet. Popkin has already leased to Best of France Antiques

and an educational software distributor, Multimedia Warehouse Company,

owned by Mercedes Hayes.

"The nice thing about rehabbing is that the buildings are


usable, and tenanted. You don’t have the downside risk of going


the planning process. You can do cosmetic/historic corrections and

start getting money from them and slowly increase your holdings,"

says Popkin.

He doesn’t generally bother to apply for incentives for historic


and considers his niche to be "under $1 million."

He invested in Trenton rather than Princeton for practical reasons:

"You could do the deals on a cash flow basis with some hard work

and diligence in keeping buildings full. In Princeton, you buy with

the expectation of doubling in value and that’s why you buy it. In

Trenton you make your money off of cash flow."

— Barbara Fox

First Properties Corp., 200 West State Street,

Trenton 08608. Daniel Popkin, president. 609-394-5050; fax,


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Emery Expands

At his former space, if three trailerloads of freight

came in at once, Rob Zeoli had to leave it in a trailer — a much

less efficient place to work with it and therefore more costly. He

has moved the Central Jersey service center of Emery Worldwide from

6,000 square feet at Windsor Industrial Park to 15,000 square feet

at Daniel Popkin’s new building in Gateway Business Park. Zeoli is


"The business is growing and the space we have has been a


to process freight inbound and outbound each day," says Zeoli.

"We have been handling freight two and three times and our


has been hurting. Initially we probably don’t need a building this

size but we will grow into the area."

Emery had its grand opening on July 21. It could have moved in earlier

except that the height of the loading docks had to be matched to


trucks, which are built differently from U.S. Postal Service trucks.

Originally, the building was intended as an annex to the Trenton


of the Postal Service, but the owners went bankrupt in the early 1990s

and the post office ended up expanding at its original location.

Zeoli has been with Emery for 10 years and as manager of this location

for two years. "I really like dealing with the public," says

Zeoli, "You are dealing with weather and different needs —

things change every day. You have to be an aggressive person and able

to make decisions."

As the largest heavyweight air freight company in North America, Emery

provides integrated transportation and distribution services to


manufacturing, and industrial customers. It is a $2.5 billion company

owned by CNF Transportation Inc., a $5 billion diversified


firm, and it has more than 600 service centers and agent locations

in 229 countries. It targets a different niche — business to


shipments of five pounds and up — than the other delivery


such as Federal Express. It also has no drop boxes nor does it pick

up from private homes.

Zeoli’s customer base consists of companies in the electronics,


automotive, and fashion industries, and some of his major clients

are the well-known names at Exit 8A — Sony, Cosmair, and Lancome.

His facility serves firms in a 130-square-mile range and provides

overnight, two-day, and deferred air freight deliveries.

Emery Worldwide CNF Company, 8 Commerce Way, Suite

5, Gateway I-95 Business Park, Hamilton 08691. Robert Zeoli, general

manager. 609-689-9288; fax, 609-689-9377. Home page:

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New in Town

Paragon Computer Professionals, 20 Commerce Drive,

Suite 226, Cranford 07016. Tammy Alvarez, marketing and sales


800-462-5582; fax, 908-635-2096. Home page:

A Cranford-based computer consulting firm will open a Princeton branch

at Forrestal Village on August 3. "We are a consulting firm that

does not use independents," says Michael Alicastro, vice president

of Paragon Computer Professionals. "We want to continue to expand

geographically and to expand service."

Alicastro (an alumnus of Hofstra, Class of 1981) makes the distinction

between employee-based firms and those that use independent


who theoretically run their own home-based businesses and get paid

by the day. Paragon is employee-based. Rather than hiring people on

an hourly basis, it hires most of its consultants full-time, and they

continue to work and get benefits and training between assignments.

"When our consultants finish up an assignment they don’t have

to worry about getting another assignment," says Alicastro. The

unassigned programmers can work in the office at computer-based


or join their colleagues at night classes.

Paragon’s office in Princeton will be supervised by Tammy Alvarez.

It staffs all kinds of projects — mainframe, client server, web

based — and also provides complete solutions for IT needs. It

is a national provider for the three biggest names in these


in communications, telecommunications, and insurance. Founded in 1982

by Dan O’Connor and Steve DeMino in Cranford, it has 1,100 employees

in nine offices, mostly on the east coast.

Montran, 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 1150,


08526. Kodesh Dukkipati, manager. 609-799-6001; fax, 609-799-6005.

Montran, short for money transfer, opened a software development


at Princeton Meadows Office Center. The New York-based firm sells

its money transfer software to international banks, explains Kodesh

Dukkipati, the software development manager. Currently, Montran


is used in 18 countries. Its space was formerly occupied by ATN, the

exporter of pay phones to South Korea.

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Leadership Strategies, 252 Wall Street, Research

Park, Princeton 08540. Stephen Payne, president. 609-921-3399; fax,

609-921-6637. URL:

Payne, formerly CEO of the American branch of PA Consulting, has moved

his executive coaching firm from the Office Concierge. A native of

Great Britain, Payne has a doctorate from the University of Aston,

Birmingham (Class of 1974). He started this business four years ago.

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