Founded in 1988 by Tim Schrager, Perennial Properties is an Atlanta based mixed-use commercial development firm that specializes in high-end urban apartment projects with street level retail.
The “story behind the story” is that before the Atlanta BeltLine was “belted,” Schrager saw the potential for top-shelf gentrified multifamily housing in Midtown neighborhoods. Joined by brother-in-law Aaron Goldman escaping the snows of Chicago, they proceeded to define and improve neighborhoods such as Poncey-Highland and Old Fourth Ward on top of more common hoods such as Inman Park and Virginia-Highland.
The apartments have clever millennial monikers such as The Brady, Telephone Factory Lofts, The Byron, and 755North.
Schrager, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, majored in real estate/finance at the University of Southern California, and headed to Atlanta for “just a few years trial” before he saw the potential and decided to stay.
Fast forward to Cathy Woolard (former Atlanta City Council) and Ryan Gravel, the Georgia Tech student credited for the original BeltLine concept, paying him a visit.
Schrager said, “Great idea!” and wrote a check on the spot to the Friends of the BeltLine. The BeltLine is a 22-mile loop of reclaimed railroad property that connects 45 neighborhoods.
Read how Schrager’s confidence and foresight forged this market niche.
Jaffe: How did you take that first step?
Schrager: I “launched” before these areas were popular. … In the mid-90s they were overgrown kudzu and train tracks. In 2001, we initiated Highland Walk in the Old Fourth Ward by combining a body shop, three crack houses, some condemned homes, an old office building, and tore them down to build this 350-unit project with retail space that opened in 2003. There was just nothing like it.
There was a domino effect, and the whole neighborhood changed. Over one year, $40,000 houses across the street began selling for $250,000. We essentially cleaned up the block! Little by little, we built infill projects. In the 1990s there were hobos lying around the active Norfolk Southern Railroad, where we bought up the land.
Jaffe: Prices are now fairly pricey on the BeltLine. Do you think we’re on a bubble that will level out?
Schrager: No, it’s all about supply and demand. What’s built gets rented. Midtown’s rental rates compared to peer cities like Houston, Dallas, Raleigh, Minneapolis, even Nashville, had some catching up to do.
Jaffe: Your office has an overwhelming art collection. What drives your artsy bent?
Schrager: I was chairman of the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center and served on its board for 10 years. Three were too many “lifers,” so I rolled off that board and limited the term. I am now on the board of Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.
“Collecting” to me means gathering a body of work. It may represent a time period or group. When my wife and I began collecting, we started slowly and went gallery hopping in New York. We looked for young artists in whose work we had the confidence that their careers would extend. Now we like to interplay these with either mid-career or older artists who might have influenced them.
At some point our walls will fill up. We may slow down, but we don’t want to get stale. To maintain a great collection, we have to keep feeding it to live and breathe.
Jaffe: You have taken a major role in our Jewish community efforts.
Schrager: For the past 18 years nonstop, I have been active in the Atlanta Jewish Federation as chair of major gifts and other divisions. In 2020 I will be vice chair of the campaign rolling into 2021 as overall chair.
Jaffe: How would you describe your own talent?
Schrager: My focus is in developing deals. I saw that Midtown was underserved with residential choices; and I fell in love with these neighborhoods like Poncey-Highlands, Inman Park, the Old Fourth Ward, so that’s the combination! Other than that, I take pride in being honest, trustworthy and doing what I say I will do.
Jaffe: What’s next for Perennial?
Schrager: We are super excited about the construction of our new mixed-use building where our headquarters will move on Peachtree Street across from The Macquarium Building. “Old timers” might remember the Coach & Six location across from the former Federation and JCC. That’s going to be very special!
Other than that, we will continue to build and develop. Remember our motto: “Be local, live local.”