David Adelman Bumps University Housing Up a Grade


Up Close and Personal

David, what do you like most/least about your job?

The worst part is [that] personnel issues tend to take up a lot of time; monitoring your workforce and making sure they are happy. Your workforce is everything. We focus a lot of time on that. That is the good and the bad: making sure everyone is happy and playing well together. It is almost like high school.

How has your role changed as your career has developed?

As we have gotten [larger], I have been able to delegate to people who are better at certain tasks than I am, and that has been great. I have been a Jack of all Trades, and it is great to have professionals come in and really [focus on] those jobs full-time. It allows me to focus on development.

Between the development part and going out and attracting new business and new universities to partner with, I have the confidence my organization is running well.

If you weren’t in this profession, what alternative occupation would you pursue?

If I was not in development, I would be teaching it. I love it.


I spend my free time with my wife and daughter. When you love what you do, it is hard to balance home life with your career.

Who are two people you would like to meet?

One would be Sam Zell. Actually, that would be hard to answer; all the people I would like to meet would be in real estate.



If people don’t like what they are doing every day, they need a new profession. I don’t call it going to work; I call it going to my office.

“I have been doing this since I was a kid. I took my bar mitzvah money and bought a building out here,” says David Adelman, chief executive officer, Campus Apartments, Philadelphia. Clearly, development and property management is a lifelong passion for Adelman, who joined the more than 40-year-old Philadelphia-based firm in 1990. With a growing portfolio of 3,000 units scattered across the “City of Brotherly Love,” Campus Apartments owns, develops, and manages university housing.

University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple, as well as many smaller Philly colleges, have all turned to Campus Apartments for the management of their undergraduate and graduate student housing. Adelman’s role is to oversee the company’s roughly 100 employees, who handle maintenance, cleaning, bookkeeping, accounting, leasing, and property management.

Adelman also spearheads the organization’s business development and strategic planning. The company is continually constructing and modernizing facilities. “I enjoy walking those jobs and putting my input [into] their design and finishes and checking their progress,” says Adelman.

Despite the current downward cycle in multi-family housing due to the rising number of first-time home buyers, Adelman is optimistic regarding the marketplace. “I am fortunate being in the student housing business that [the current down cycle] doesn’t affect me. Apartments have always been my preference to office buildings, simply because everyone needs a place to live,” says Adelman. The Philadelphia apartment market is performing well and Campus Apartments is active in the modernization of older office buildings into apartments.

According to Adelman, increasingly, universities do not have the financial resources to manage student housing. Many colleges are also struggling with outdated, neglected dormitories built in the 1960s and 1970s and are seeking turnkey solutions to their housing needs. Campus Apartments uses its private capital and expertise to redevelop those properties and operate them for universities so that schools can focus on education and not real estate.

The company hopes to expand from a great regional player into a national student housing brand. Adelman stresses constant communication as the key to Campus Apartments’ success and future growth. Adds Adelman, “The two tools I value most are the inner confidence to get up and move forward, and communication.” Recently, Campus Apartments implemented PDAs – Blackberry devices – to increase communication efficiency.

“I love the creativity in restoring an old, dilapidated property; going from blight to bright, and really doing something nice,” says Adelman. Each day, he relies on his sense of confidence to know when a project is right and meant to happen, regardless of what others think.

By focusing on development, attracting both new business and new university partners, Adelman is confident Campus Apartments will graduate to the next level. He notes, “I am always looking to get better work out of myself and my company. We try not to get too comfortable.”

Regina Raiford Babcock (regina.raifordbabcock@buildingsmedia.com) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.


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