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.)
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
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,"
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
Trenton 08608. Daniel Popkin, president. 609-394-5050; fax,
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.
5, Gateway I-95 Business Park, Hamilton 08691. Robert Zeoli, general
manager. 609-689-9288; fax, 609-689-9377. Home page:
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.
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.
Park, Princeton 08540. Stephen Payne, president. 609-921-3399; fax,
609-921-6637. URL: http://www.leaderx.com.
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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