Even before receiving his finance and real estate degrees at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Nathan “Nate” Kaplan learned his way around property development and his family business by playing in empty homes and exploring construction sites.
Today, he says his goal is to “grow our Southeast efforts primarily in Charlotte, Raleigh and Atlanta, selected because of their high-tech industries and attraction for young people. We promulgate job growth and concentrate on forward thinking.”
Kaplan is responsible for acquisitions, site sourcing, development coordination and asset management at Morris J. Kaplan Communities, now Kaplan Residential.
At 30, he can be seen around his condo on the Atlanta BeltLine, Chabad Intown, working out, and doing volunteer work for Friendship Circle, for people with special needs.
In July, he was selected by Jezebel magazine as “good looking and go getting” in its selection of “20 Most Eligible Atlantans.”
Jaffe: The term “family business” has variable connotations. Do you encounter flak for nepotism, … being the “youngster” with a silver spoon in Dad’s business?
Kaplan: People with whom I interact see that I am serious and real. More importantly, I want those around me to grow too.
Jaffe: What is the evolution of the Kaplan family brand before your arrival seven years ago in Atlanta?
Kaplan: My grandfather Nathan Kaplan, for whom I am named, was a Holocaust survivor, and my uncle Michael Kaplan was born in a concentration camp. Although I was reared in Baltimore, the family real estate business bloomed in New Jersey. Our office in Highland Park still stands as the Merriwold Castle (originally owned by the Johnson & Johnson family), where as children we were allowed to play in this fantasy land. My father and uncle developed over 25,000 residences along with 3 million square feet of commercial space.
My father taught me to be open-minded and have confidence in the business world. We sometimes have different management styles, but our ability to work together is what makes our relationship special.
Jaffe: What motivates you?
Kaplan: Yesterday I walked into one of our high-rises and saw 100 people working on that one site. Three years ago, we found this site and envisioned what would work. Now here we are with this progressive, utilitarian, and very cool building.
By 2020 we should complete Generation Atlanta at Ivan Allen [Jr. Blvd.] near Centennial Park, with 336 apartments. A completed project is 450 Piedmont — 250 townhouse rentals. Another very popular one is Square One in Sandy Springs. We own and manage our properties.
It’s not just construction, my family and cousins are continuing to grow in other cities, hiring people and diversifying. We own 26 Sushi [&Tapas, which is kosher] in Miami. So many doors open for others.
Jaffe: Define Kaplan’s real estate niche.
Kaplan: We are “scaling up” a platform, primarily townhouse rentals with 150-plus units. Our target is 20- to 30-year-olds, maybe young marrieds, who don’t want to commit to buying. We are including full amenities like an upscale club room. We are also seeing older adults who move in from the suburbs without sacrificing a ton of space.
Jaffe: How do you identify “Jewishly”?
Kaplan: I’m involved through my weekly studies with Rabbi Schusterman (Chabad Intown). I enjoyed consulting a bit on the construction of their BeltLine facility. Typical of some young adults in my generation, organized religion can be complicated; I am interested in better understanding and pursuing my connection.
As part of that, tikkun olam is a priority. I am involved with the Friendship Circle, which pairs volunteers with Jewish children and adults with special needs. There are two parts: writing the check and active volunteering to see where the funds go. It’s nice to see that many students from the local Jewish day schools volunteer there also.
Jaffe: When you’re not working, volunteering or chilling in your pad at Ponce City Market, where can we find you?
Kaplan: I’m a CrossFit fanatic: 6 a.m. one-on-one with a trainer, … then most days again after work in the p.m. I like to dine at Barcelona, MF Sushi, O-Ku and Gunshow. I am lucky that after having been in Sigma Alpha Mu, I have many friends here from Bloomington [Ill.].
This is a year of many friends’ weddings and bachelor parties. And everyone seems to want to fix me up along the way!