Meet Ras Fenger, Owner of Disaster One and PTAA Board Member


This episode of Not a Complex podcast features an interview with Ras Fenger, President of Disaster One and a member of PTAA’s Board of Directors. Among other things, we talked about how he came to own Disaster One, how technology is impacting his business, the Chips for Children fundraising event he organizes each year to benefit The Boys and Girls Club, leadership and his favorite books and movie.

Over the coming months you’ll see (hear?) more interviews with members of PTAA’s Board of Directors. There are multiple reasons we’ve kicked off this series, but the two big ones are:
1. These folks have a wealth of knowledge to share
2. We hope this will allow PTAA’s members to get to know their leadership a little better.

So, sit back and enjoy the show. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email them to us at

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Show Notes:

Disaster One

Chips for Children


Ras’s Favorite Books & Movie:

Good to Great by Jim Collins

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Hawthorne at the Grove Sold to St. Louis Firm

Hawthorne at the Grove, located in Kernersville, has been sold to St. Louis-based Thiemann Real Estate for $28.1 million, or $130,000 a door. From the Triad Business Journal:

Hawthorne at the Grove, which is located at 1014 Grays Land Road, was built in 2016.

The community consists of 216 apartments on 21 acres. The average square foot per unit is 1,109.

Campus Crossing Bought by New York Firm

Campus Crossing Apartments, a 297-unit student community near UNC Greensboro, was purchased by Vesper Holdings LLC for $36.5 million and is being rebranded as Sherwood Forest Apartments. Details from an article in the Triad Business Journal:

According to Vesper, it will make a complete renovation/rebranding of Sherwood Forest with $1.8 million in capital expenditures, including renovation of the units and amenities, as well as extensive enhancements to the property’s exteriors and substantial technology upgrades throughout the complex.

Vesper said it ranks as one of the top 10 student housing owners in the country with a portfolio worth more than $1 billion. Vesper subsidiary Campus Life & Style manages its properties…

The signage on the exterior of the buildings has yet to be changed.

Waiting to Launch

Every generation of human beings has taken a look at the generation that’s following them, their own children, and shaken their collective heads. They wonder, “What are these young folks thinking?” while conveniently forgetting that their decision-making was questioned as much, or more, by their parent’s generation. So it’s not surprising that the young adults of today are different from their parents, but what is shocking is how differently young adults today – the oft written about millennials – view the world than their parents – the oft written about Baby Boomers and oft-forgotten Gen Xers.

Those differences are explored in a report from the US Census Bureau titled The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood from 1975 to 2016. Here are some highlights:

  • Most of today’s Americans believe that educational and economic accomplishments are extremely important milestones of adulthood. In contrast, marriage and parenthood rank low: over half of Americans believe that marrying and having children are not very important in order to become an adult.
  • Young people are delaying marriage, but most still eventually tie the knot. In the 1970s, 8 in 10 people married by the time they turned 30. Today, not until the age of 45 have 8 in 10 people married.
  • More young people today live in their parents’ home than in any other arrangement: 1 in 3 young people, or about 24 million 18- to 34-year olds, lived in their parents’ home in 2015.
  • In 2005, the majority of young adults lived independently in their own household, which was the predominant living arrangement in 35 states. A decade later, by 2015, the number of states where the majority of young people lived independently fell to just six. Of the top five states where the most young adults lived independently in 2015, all were in Midwest and Plains states.
  • More young men are falling to the bottom of the income ladder. In 1975, 25 percent of young men ages 25 to 34 had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41 percent of young men (incomes for both years are in 2015 dollars).
  • Between 1975 and 2016, the share of young women who were homemakers fell from 43 percent to 14 percent of all women ages 25 to 34.
  • Of young people living in their parents’ home, 1 in 4 are idle, that is they neither go to school nor work. This figure represents about 2.2 million 25- to 34-year-olds. Among other characteristics, these young adults are more likely to have a child, so they may be caring for family, and over one quarter have a disability of some kind.

Obviously, these trends are having a tremendous impact on the apartment industry. More young adults living at home means fewer living in apartments now, but since they are marrying later they might still be apartment renters until they start families. It’s a mixed-bag in terms of figuring out what it means for apartment providers, but one thing is certain: since this is the largest generation our country has ever seen how they live WILL have a significant impact on the industry.

NIMBYism in Clemmons

The Clemmons planning board voted to recommend against a proposed 108-unit apartment community, and their meeting was overflowing with residents opposed to the project. The board cited the developer’s refusal to improve the right-of-way or to add more integrated uses to its plans as the reason for voting against the rezoning, but neighbors cited their own concerns about the nature of the apartments in and of themselves when they spoke against the project. From the Winston-Salem Journal:

Tony Smith, acting on behalf of his family, said he would like to sell the land for the apartments to Mills Construction of Raleigh, which manages about 38 properties, mostly in eastern North Carolina…

The apartments, Smith said, would help meet a need for more affordable housing in Clemmons…

Paul Whitener, representing 300 houses in the Old Meadowbrook Homeowners Association, said his group would not support apartments for that property, saying they are concerned about trespassing and the impact on local schools.

“There are several things we could support,” he said, naming such things as single-family homes, a small-scale retirement community and a small-scale mixed-use development that would combine businesses and residences.

Smith said after the meeting he plans to present information to the council that shows the lack of affordable housing in Clemmons.

“People think this is subsidized housing, and it’s not,” Smith said.

Kernersville Multi-Use Development Will Have 500 Apartments

Welden Village, a 385-acre, mixed-used development proposed in Kernersville that is a “traditional” neighborhood development (TND), will include 500 apartments, 306 of which are being built by Parr Construction later this year. Here’s a description of the project from an article in the Triad Business Journal:

Instead of a development based on “pods” of similar homes, Arden plans to create one integrated walkable community with well-connected streets where residents can make short walks to parks, open spaces, civic amenities and new retail spaces. Traditional neighborhood development, sometimes referred to as neotraditional design or New Urbanism, harkens back to how neighborhoods were developed prior to World War II – before automobiles changed the dynamics…

The plans for Welden include three single-family areas with about 1,400 homes as well as about 200 townhomes and 500 apartment units. Rhodes said about 30 acres would be used for a commercial village…

Next up is Welden Park Apartments, a 306-unit complex adjacent to the village center, built by Triad-based Parr Construction. Kernersville approved a site plan in March, and construction is scheduled to begin late this summer, according to Rhodes.

A Day in the Life of a One-Day Lobbyist

PTAA’s own Mary Gwyn of Apartment Dynamics wrote a piece for the National Apartment Association about her experience at NAA’s Day of Lobbying in March:

It is an honor that we citizens can impact government, lawmaking and regulations in this country. I am always awed when I take advantage of this right and opportunity to express my opinions to our leaders on issues that impact our industry. Beyond our votes, if our voices are not heard, others may sway our leaders in directions we don’t agree with and that are counter to our business and the affordability of housing. A Day of Lobbying each year is very little to give to see that our voices are heard. It’s a great lesson in civics!

One of my Congressional visits was to Rep. Mark Walker (R), a freshman from North Carolina. He came from outside the political circles, serving as a pastor in Greensboro prior to running for Congress.

A group of eight of us gathered to meet with him, three of whom were first-time lobbyists. We filled the hall while we let his staff know we were there for our appointment, but there was some confusion – no appointment on the calendar. And although we had emails from his office, there was no need to pull them up. In fact, they quickly found a way to “squeeze” us in before the Congressman’s next appointment.

We were taken from his small but sunny outer office, to a rich wood-paneled room. The walls were covered with pictures and sayings that demonstrated his beliefs and interests. He crowded all eight of us and his Legislative Assistant into the room. Three of us were from his district, and introduced ourselves. His eyes were intent on each of us as we spoke.

You really should read the whole thing because it eloquently describes why participating in government relations activities like the Day of Lobbying is so important, and how it can enrich your career.

It’s a Two-fer: Diamond Awards and National Apartment Housing Day

Tonight is PTAA’s annual Diamond Awards banquet, which is a combination of the Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards for the local apartment industry. The event is SOLD OUT which means we’ll have 530 people celebrating the best and the brightest the apartment industry has to offer.

Today is also National Apartment Housing Day and by highlighting it at tonight’s Diamond Awards PTAA will be joining the 170 apartment associations affiliated with the National Apartment Association (NAA) to promote the tremendous contribution that the apartment industry makes in housing Americans. Here’s how the National Apartment Association describes it:

National Apartment Housing Day is the apartment housing industry’s opportunity to showcase its significant impact in communities across America by:

  • Contributing to the nation’s economic strength. Apartments and their residents contribute $1.3 trillion to the economy and support 12.3 million jobs.
  • Growing career opportunities. Today, 469,000 apartment professionals work in fields such as property management, leasing and maintenance. Beyond supporting today’s 20 million apartment households, new career opportunities await – by one estimate, 4.4 million new renter households will be formed within the next decade.
  • Giving back to communities. In 2016, the industry infused $158 million in philanthropic and charitable contributions into communities across the nation.

“Today we welcome America home,” says National Apartment Association President & CEO Robert Pinnegar, CAE. “Apartments offer Americans flexibility and choice, but current demand for apartments outstrips supply. A continued supply of affordable housing requires supportive legislation and regulations that make it easier to construct and rehabilitate apartments. That, more than anything else, will help keep rents reasonable for Americans.”

NAA Report Explores Effects of Value Added Amenities

A report recently released by the National Apartment Association explores which amenities are most widely offered at both the community-wide and unit level and the impact those amenities have on rent and occupancy rates. Titled Adding Value in the Age of Amenities Wars the report details which amenities are most commonly offered and explores which are most effective in raising average rents.

Here’s a sample of some of the findings:

  • Top community-wide amenity: Fitness Centers
  • Top unit-level amenity: Washer/Dryer in unit
  • Percent of residents willing to pay a premium ($75) for hardwood floors: 49%
  • Percent of residents willing to pay a premium ($30) for granite countertops: 39%
  • Percent of residents willing to pay a premium for fitness classes: 46%

Finally, towards the end of the report is a graphic showing the impact of renovations on occupancy, broken down by apartment class:

Class A – Occupancy increased from 92.0% to 92.8%
Class B – Occupancy increased from 92.7% to 94.3%
Class C – Occupancy increased from 88.6% to 91.0%

You can read the entire report here.


Burkely Buys Greensboro Student Properties

PTAA member Burkely Communities has continued to expand its student housing portfolio with the purchase of four properties in Greensboro. From a Triad Business Journal article:

Burkely’s Spartan Student Apartments LLC purchased Chancellor Park Apartments, Sterling Park Apartments, Spartan Crossing Apartments and Spartan Square Apartments.

Burkely paid $9.86 million for 24-unit Chancellor Park and 36-unit Sterling Park; $5.1 million for 40 units at Spartan Crossing; and $1.175 million for 12-unit Spartan Square.

Burkely bought Chancellor Park and Sterling Park from GBORO AG UNCG LLC, an entity of United Student Housing of New York City. Burkely bought the Spartan Crossing units from Greensboro’s Granwood Properties LLC and acquired Spartan Square from a separate LLC made up of Granwood members.