At the desk of: Tracey Appelbaum

The co-founder of BedRock Real Estate Partners on breaking into construction sites, saving frogs and more than $1.5B in assets under management

Nov.November 01, 2019 12:00 PM

Tracey Appelbaum (Photos by Emily Assiran)

When Tracey Appelbaum was growing up in Georgia, she often accompanied her grandfather, a developer, to construction sites. He built a number of Frito-Lay warehouses throughout the Southeast, she said, and “would have me holding the flashlight for him while he fixed HVAC units, or he would have me pace off the size of a room.”

Years later, when she was at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, she took a real estal estate finance class, and something clicked. “I thought, wait, this thing I did as a child, there’s actually a defined job description for it,” she said. 

From there, she got “deeper and deeper into real estate.”

As co-founder of Midtown-based BedRock Real Estate, Appelbaum and her business partner, Chuck Berman, oversee $1.6 billion in 20 assets that contain roughly 2,500 apartments. 

The investment management firm specializes in the development and acquisition of rental units and mixed-use developments in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. Although they mainly work on the finance side, Appelbaum said the firm has works closely with developers.

BedRock’s high-profile projects include the 168-unit Watermark Court Square rental building in Long Island City and the Pierrepont, a 90-unit luxury rental building in Brooklyn Heights.

The firm also backed the Hudson Companies’ 133-unit condo 1 Clinton in Brooklyn Heights. Appelbaum, who went on to get an MBA at Wharton, started working at AvalonBay Communities in 1994, based out of the firm’s Connecticut office. In 2003, Berman — AvalonBay’s co-founder — recruited her to run the New York office of his new venture, investment management firm MacFarlane Partners.

“We were tasked with joining forces with developers, and that was … really where I created the network that I have today,” she said.

The two launched their new firm, which is based out of an 18th-floor office at 501 Fifth Avenue, in 2013.

Toy frog on a lily pad

Appelbaum is a huge collector of toy frogs. She bought this fabric one on a trip to Japan this summer. Her frog obsession dates back to her childhood in Georgia, when she would scoop frogs out of the pool at her grandparents’ house to save them from the skimmer. She’s bought toy frogs all over the world, but, by some accounts, her collection has gotten unwieldy. “There’s a moratorium at my house that if one comes in, one has to come out,” she joked.

PVC pipe
“As a child and even into my college years, I would routinely break into construction sites because I just liked to walk around in them,” Appelbaum said. At 19, she and a friend hopped the fence and walked around a site in Atlanta where a new student center was being built at Emory University. She took this small piece of PVC pipe from the site and has had it since.

Hard hat
This hard hat is from a 20-story condo building, Linden 78, which Appelbaum and her husband assembled on 78th and Broadway. The couple, who had a co-developer on the project, spent several years negotiating the deal, which included relocating and rebuilding a neighboring mikveh (a traditional Jewish bath house). Construction began in 2007 and was finalized in 2010. The building launched during the dark days of the recession and hit some snags, but it did ultimately sell out.

Rubber chicken
When Appelbaum’s children went to nursery school, they would often run relay races, using a rubber chicken as a baton. After Appelbaum left MacFarlane in 2008 to work on Linden78, she had more time on her hands and helped coach at her kids’ camp, where they played lacrosse, tennis, basketball and a mix of other sports. “So instead of watching the kids run around the gym with rubber chickens, I coached for a summer,” she said. Her kids are now in the ninth and 12th grades at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School on the Upper West Side.

Framed items from her grandfather

Before Appelbaum’s grandfather was a developer, he worked in the grocery business, and food brands would send him gifts to get him to stock their products. One supplier, a turkey company, sent him good luck charms once a month. When Appelbaum and Berman did their first deal, she had those charms framed and preserved the case they were kept in. “That was going to be my present to myself to take the good luck charms,” she said.

Flintstones collection

Appelbaum bought these Flintstones figurines a few years ago — a playful nod to the firm’s name. Unfortunately, the set didn’t include a Great Gazoo, her favorite Flintstones character, but she later found one that’s slightly bigger than the others. “These guys were all rooted in their fun, but Gazoo was sort of the evidence that there was always somewhere else to go, or something else to do that was beyond the life.”

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