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Post Properties' visionary leader comments on getting to the top

At Post Properties Inc., the mission is clearly defined: To provide the superior apartment living experience for its residents. This multifamily REIT is the third largest in the nation, according to ASSETrac Inc., a Bloomfield, N.J.-based real estate information service.

In 1997, Post's revenues topped $200 million, producing a total market capitalization of $2.4 billion. As a publicly held company, The REIT has averaged more than 12% in annual yields for its shareholders. At present, Post's portfolio contains 91 apartment communities with a total of 30,883 units completed or under way. Since its IPO in July 1993, the company has completed 19 projects, encompassing 6,083 units, at a cost of $456 million.

Post has nearly 5,000 units under construction, representing additional capital investment of $546 million over the next 30 months. Currently, the company is also completing a mixed-use community called Riverside by Post, a $100 million, nine-story new community and corporate headquarters in Atlanta combining apartments, office and retail space.

Multifamily Monitor talks with John Williams, chairman and CEO of Post Properties Inc., about Post's success.

MM: Please discuss Riverside by Post and what makes it different from other Post communities.

Williams: Well, Riverside is a mixed-use community. We actually designed it to look 60- to 80-years-old, and I think we've accomplished our goal. You would have to go up to an older city like Boston or Washington, D.C., to find the same type of feel and excitement you'll see when you pull into Riverside. Besides apartments, the rest of the community will have retail on the bottom floor, and it is truly a neo-urbanism and neo-traditional community that will have office, retail, apartments and single-family homes. We will lease the five or six single-family homes for probably upward of $3,000 per month.

MM: Please comment on the state of the multifamily industry today.

Williams: I think we have a healthy multifamily industry. I think there is more information flowing than anytime since I've been in the business, which is more than 30 years. There are very few secrets in terms of performance anymore. All regions of the country are subject to cycles of supply and demand, and I think the cycles have been smoothed out considerably. So, I think we basically have the prospects for a cycle being the down cycle, but not nearly as severe as in the past, and the prospects of a healthy industry going forward.

MM: What is Post doing to beat the competition in 1998?

Williams: At Post, the key thing we're doing is that we've been involved in a lot of trends in the multifamily business. The trend I see today is what I would call the depreciation cycle and the problems associated with the commodity end of the apartment business. Suburban garden apartments that are built pretty far out from the core city are more risky and less likely for long-term success. Compare that to our successful experience in urban, in-fill garden communities. So for us, our strategy is to continue to focus on the urban, in-fill housing market throughout the country.

MM: What markets are you looking at this year?

Williams: We have active in-fill locations in Houston, Denver and Phoenix, and these are new markets for us. I think that in the next several weeks we'll announce our first initiative in California. We're looking at some sites in the Northeast and Seattle.

MM: What are your merger, acquisition or consolidation plans for Post Properties this year?

Williams: We will continue to look at quality companies that fit our profile, companies that have high-quality assets. We look at the Class-B and Class-C markets as commodities, and we're just not interested in that type of business. For more than 28 years, our economic performance has substantially outperformed the B and C product. If you catch the cycle perfectly, B and C product can do very well, and it really reflects how well a market is doing, and not how a company is performing.

MM: Please discuss your branding strategies at Post Properties.

Williams: We started off as a company that endorsed the brand philosophy. We've found that branding makes us keep our properties absolutely pristine. We don't allow any depreciation within the communities; therefore, we have a very uniform level of quality. It also requires us to invest heavily in training that allows uniformity across the entire portfolio. So for us, we have an absolute passion for the brand name, and it delivers a relentless quality under the name Post for our residents and shareholders.

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