Stark Enterprises/Arbor Construction

StarkStark Enterprises’ construction arm and other divisions give it a unique perspective on projects.

By Jim Harris, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

Robert Stark knew that he wanted Stark Enterprises to do more than just real estate development when he founded the company in 1978.

“He wanted to operate with the mindset of an owner instead of as a third party,” says his son Ezra, the company’s COO. “[Stark] wanted to work on the pre-construction side, have direct relationships with subcontractors and help perform projects when needed.”Stark info box

Stark closed on his first real estate deal – a small row of shops in Mayfield Heights, Ohio – while attending law school. “He had always wanted to do construction, but pursued a law degree because he needed the legal knowledge for his development work,” Ezra Stark says.

The amount of work involved in that project and the company’s other early projects led Robert Stark to diversify his services. “He would wear the hats of general contractor, lawyer and developer,” his son says. “As the development company grew, he realized we needed to have our own construction company.”

Robert Stark formally established Arbor Construction in Cleveland in 1980 as a sibling company to Stark Enterprises. Today, Stark Enterprises is a full-service company with expertise in acquisition, land development, leasing, property management, construction, architectural design, landscape architecture, marketing and security. 

“Being vertically integrated allows us to approach issues from a different perspective and take a 360-degree approach to our projects,” Ezra Stark says. 

The company prides itself on developing and building mixed-use commercial and residential properties that “balance revolutionary idealism, new urbanist principles and sustainability practices with economic vitality,” it says. 

All of Stark Enterprises’ projects offer unique, experiential environments. For the company, this means using different types of materials in different areas of a building and designing and creating unique amenities. “We believe in engaging all of the senses,” Ezra Stark adds. 

Market Adaptable

As the company’s CEO, Robert Stark has overseen a number of developments during the company’s 40 years in business. “[Stark] keeps a close eye on changing consumer trends and the movement toward lifestyle-centric opportunities,” the company says. “He is able to quickly adapt to ever-changing consumer tastes by developing properties that fit their needs.”

Stark Enterprises’ retail developments in Northeast Ohio have attracted major national tenants including Tiffany & Co., Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Sur La Table, Old Navy, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Free People and Allen Edmonds. 

One of the company’s most notable projects was Phase 3 of Crocker Park, a 12-block, $480 million development in Westlake, Ohio, that includes luxury apartments, retail, a hotel and office buildings including the headquarters of American Greetings. 

Arbor Construction’s work on the project included serving as construction manager on a 110-room Hyatt Hotel. The company also served as general contractor on a 384-space precast parking garage, a 384-unit apartment complex and more than 125,000 square feet of shell retail space. 

Though Crocker Park Phase 3 was completed in 2016, Stark Enterprises is still developing additional retail and restaurant uses there.

Construction of the Crocker Park Phase 3 project was led by Bill Trump, who is today the director of construction operations for Arbor Construction. Trump was hired in 2013 as construction manager on the project. He assumed his current position in the company in 2018. 

Trump’s experience includes working on multifamily, commercial, retail and industrial projects. “In the past 10 years, I don’t think I’ve built anything valued at less than $30 million,” he notes.

Collectively, Arbor Construction’s project management and supervision staff has more than 100 years of experience in mixed-use and multifamily retail construction. “We believe we have the best people,” Stark Enterprises CFO Raymond Weiss says. “We’ve been very fortunate with the people we’ve been able to hire into Arbor, and they have fairly long tenures in our company.”

Arbor Construction works in conjunction with the Stark Enterprises team throughout the life of a project. “We are a development company at our core,” Weiss adds. “We don’t just rely on architects to come up with initial schematic designs; Arbor is involved in the development process from its inception. We have always had Arbor at the table when developing designs and layouts, and that has helped us come up with designs that really work.”

Building the Beacon

One of Stark Enterprises and Arbor’s biggest current projects is the Beacon, one of only a few new high-rise buildings to be built in Cleveland during the past 20 years. 

The $70 million residential tower will include 180 one- and two-bedroom luxury apartments. Work on the project began in fall 2017 and is slated to conclude in May of 2019. 

The project entails adding 21 stories to the top of an existing eight-story parking structure in downtown Cleveland. The Beacon features a structural steel with slab-on metal deck foundation and a metal panel façade. The building will include amenity spaces such as a yoga room, a fitness center and a rooftop amenity space, Trump says.

The Beacon is Stark Enterprises and Arbor’s first high-rise. “We brought in talent that had experience with high-rises, as we had not done them before,” Weiss says. “Our history is more in suburban developments, where there isn’t a high level of density. This is our first opportunity to move in a more urban-minded direction.”

Geographic Expansion

Stark Enterprises is expanding beyond its historic project base in Ohio to tackle developments in other parts of the country. “When my father started the company, it had a self-imposed radius of one day travel from our main office,” Ezra Stark says. “Because we were only working in a specific geography, we needed to gain expertise in various types of real estate. Today, we are diversifying geographically.”

Arbor Construction in August will conclude work on a 770-bed student housing project at the University of Texas at Arlington. Additional student housing developments are underway in Dallas and Gainesville, Ga. The company is also working on residential towers in New York City and Los Angeles, and recently broke ground on a seven-story mixed-use redevelopment of a building in downtown Pittsburgh. 

“Right now, Arbor is probably more vibrant that is has ever been, and that is because of our experience building just about every product type,” Weiss says. “We are in a very good position moving forward to do an ever-increasing amount of construction across the country.”

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