Get to Know...
Brian D. Cappelli, BOMA Fellow, RPA

Brian Cappelli was sworn in as the 2018-2019 chair of BOMA International this past June at the 2018 BOMA International Conference & Expo. He has more than two decades of experience in the commercial real estate industry, including roles at publicly traded REITs and private real estate investment firms engaged in office, retail and mixed-use properties. He currently is vice president of Asset Management at GBX Group LLC, a firm focused on preserving historic real estate assets through transformative projects across the United States. He served two terms as president of BOMA/Greater Cleveland and for four years on BOMA Ohio’s Board of Governors. He also has served on numerous BOMA International committees, including the Executive Committee, before becoming an elected officer in 2016.

What’s ahead for BOMA over the next year with you at the helm?

I’m lucky to be serving as chair during an exciting time for BOMA International. A new strategic long-range plan for the association is currently in its final stages of development and, when we begin implementing it this January, it will significantly shape this organization for years to come.

The industry also continues to be in the midst of tremendous change. BOMA’s education, research and information-sharing opportunities are critical to helping our members manage that change. This means staying ahead of emerging trends and finding new ways to effectively communicate about them with our members. Fortunately, we have a great leadership team in place for BOMA International with exciting ideas about how we can continue to innovate.

What are you most excited about in your year ahead as BOMA International chair?

I’m looking forward to connecting with other members. As an officer, I’ve been part of ongoing conversations with BOMA local associations over the last couple of years—particularly on how they are effectively reaching out to people in the industry. These discussions have led to some great ideas that are being shared across the organization. I want to continue to drive member engagement among all the local associations.

And, to be perfectly honest, I’m excited on a deeply personal level. The BOMA network has been critical to my success in this industry and serving as chair gives me a unique opportunity to give back and connect with lots of smart folks in this business at all levels all across the world.

You’re a past president of BOMA/Greater Cleveland. What are the biggest issues facing commercial real estate in the Cleveland area?

The trend toward "reurbanization" is alive and well in Cleveland, as it is in other cities in the Great Lakes region and across the United States. By reurbanization, I mean the trend of people moving back into urban areas that were previously abandoned for the suburbs. In the case of Cleveland, this has translated into a significant amount of older Class B and C real estate being converted into multifamily residential.

This change in use has served to bolster occupancy and performance in the remaining Class B assets. It has dramatically transformed the streetscape with new restaurants and shops. Cleveland has a goal of 20,000 residents living in the downtown business district by 2020, and the city is well on its way to achieving that target. Other downtowns across the United States are in similar periods of revitalization, and it’s exciting to be witnessing this trend firsthand.

You have extensive experience with adaptive reuse. Can you talk about this growing trend?

The real estate stock in the United States is aging. If owners don’t repurpose older properties, they will have a difficult time attracting tenants who are looking for the latest amenities in walkable areas. My firm, GBX Group, focuses on preserving historic real estate in urban areas across the United States. Our new headquarters is in the historic Empire Improvement Building, a former knitting mill in Cleveland’s historic garment district that has been repurposed as office space. This building has large windows, exposed brick and beam surfaces—an aesthetic that strongly appeals to modern workers. There are many similar buildings in urban areas that are coming back to life, thanks to adaptive reuse, creating a high level of value.

This is another area in which BOMA plays an important role in the industry. Managing this change is an ongoing challenge, and the resources BOMA is offering to members have the potential to make a big difference in leading property professionals through this process.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

My wife, Kat, and I have a little sailboat that we keep at a cottage up in Michigan, and we’ve been learning how to sail. Someday, we’d like to get a bigger boat and navigate it through all the Great Lakes.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2018 issue of BOMA Magazine.