Case Studies

The Engel Burman Group

Turnkey development, construction and management services

The Engel Burman Group (EBG) came about in the late 1990s when two longstanding family businesses merged. Prior to establishing EBG, Sydney Engel operated in the construction industry and Jan Burman as a developer. The partners came together while competing for a role in a joint venture senior housing project in New York. Realizing the potential for growth of a combined business, the Engels and the Burmans opted to work together. For more than 15 years, the business has flourished, incorporating new and diverse services for a growing market sector.

Scott Burman is a partner and principal of EBG, as well as a third-generation real estate developer. “My grandfather started as a homebuilder in the 1950s, my father joined him in the ’70s and went on to build one of the largest industrial portfolios on Long Island,” Scott recounts. “In 2002, I joined the company at the beginning of our entry into the seniors housing sector and my brother followed a few years later.”

Scott’s experience in real estate and finance has offered a huge advantage to EBG, as the business has evolved into a leading construction, development and management business. He and six other partners work with a large team – 30 on the construction side alone – to plan, develop and maintain a diverse range of properties throughout Long Island and New Jersey.

Over the years, EBG has established a strong niche in the senior and assisted-living markets. EBG serves as builder, owner and operator for dozens of communities throughout the region. On the operations side, EBG employs over 1,000 personnel.

From a corporate office in Garden City, N.Y., EBG is providing a unique set of services for long-term and short-term residents. Outside of senior living facilities, the business has also completed thousands of multifamily residential units, as well as a diverse portfolio of commercial development spanning several markets.

Bristal living

Some of EBG’s best-known properties are The Bristal Assisted Living (Bristal) communities. The first Bristal was also the inaugural project for the newly combined team, which opened in 1999. Now, the crew has broken ground on No. 12 in the series. These communities are privately owned and managed by EBG’s Ultimate Care Management division and the group has been involved in the ground-up construction of each one.

“Right now our crew is working on a Bristal in Lake Grove, Long Island,” Scott explains. “We have opened three others this year. One is in Sayville, Suffolk County, Long Island, which was more than 50 percent occupied in the first two months of operation. We also opened one in Armonk, Westchester, N.Y. The third opened in Woodcliff Lake, Bergen County, N.J.”

On top of the Lake Grove project, EBG plans to begin work on three more Bristal locations expected to begin construction in the next few months. Each project comes in at approximately $40 million total project cost. The 150-unit properties feature state-of-the-art care facilities for the elderly, as well as a separate area for people with beginning stages of dementia, which has been branded: Reflections.

A growing portfolio

EBG also has several upcoming projects starting over the next six months. “We are going to do our first all memory care assisted-living facility in Lake Success, Nassau County, on Long Island,” Scott notes. “That will be an 89-unit facility. We are working on a partnership with a local hospital that will be placing doctors and researchers on our campus to help us study residents and design cutting-edge programs.”

EBG is planning to roll out new programs for memory care across the region. Eventually, the team plans to go national with the concept. In the early years, the group began building Alzheimer’s care centers within assisted-living projects, most with approximately 24 beds. Now, these facilities have grown to approximately 60 beds and continue growing to 100 or more beds in newly planned iterations due to an unfortunate and exponentially growing need.

Where these facilities used to fill from within and existing assisted-living community as an age-in-place advantage, EBG has found that now, people come directly into memory care. The industry has seen major changes over the last decade and Scott says his team has seen need in the market growing rapidly.

Upcoming work includes a property in Farmingville, Long Island, which will serve as a combination assisted-living and memory care community. The crew will break ground in early 2015. EBG is building another in West Babylon, Long Island, over the next couple of months.

The company will begin another in Wayne, N.J., in 2015, as well as a combination community that includes independent living in Jericho on Long Island. The Jericho project will offer 80 independent units, 80 assisted-living units and 80 memory care units all on one campus and will be the next evolution of EBG’s senior housing concept.

A turnkey approach

With so much going on over the coming months, it seems amazing the team can handle it all. EBG boasts serious in-house capabilities, however, including a strong construction management division. “We operate as our own project manager and subcontract out all of the major trades,” Scott elaborates. “We develop plans in-house in conjunction with select architects and engineers; we do our own estimating and value engineering on all trades. We even self-perform some of our own labor. We work with a lot of skilled tradespeople for electrical, masonry, framing and others.”

According to Scott, managing relationships with strategic partners is very important to EBG’s success. “We run a competitive process, but also have a great team of subcontractors that we work with over and over again,” he continues. “We have worked alongside many of these contractors and specialists for several years. We are always confident in their skills, abilities and that they can help us to meet our budgets on time.”

Strategic evolution

While EBG dates back just over a decade, the owning families bring years of experience to the table. The long-term success of the founding partner companies has built a strong foundation for the team. This foundation allowed the business to weather the storm of the economic downturn and maintain growth in the years since.

“We did pretty well during the downturn,” says Scott. “When the market was strong, we had a large backlog. We sold a few projects to large national companies and we were not too heavy in property.”

The team even had a large housing project of 400 units in development throughout the recession that ended up doing very well and EBG sold the units. While margins did decrease, the dip was manageable. The company was able to maintain the key relationships that have helped support a strong mission.

Now that the economy is in recovery, EBG faces a new set of challenges. New opportunities have the company in a good position for growth, but Scott and his team need to build up human resources. “We plan to increase our volume,” he explains. “We are actively hiring more people, but we want to do that in an efficient way.”

In order to grow properly, Scott and his partners need to pull in additional team members who are as serious about performance and quality as the existing team. The unparalleled crew draws from several generations of operators to build innovative communities that meet the changing needs of end-users. Diversity in experience is vital to the organization and is only trumped by passion in the leadership team.

Striving for excellence

“We really enjoy what we do here,” Scott says. “We take a lot of pride in the fact that we can build a place where people and their parents feel taken care of. At the end of the day, we are providing a service to people in a way others do not.”

As the senior housing market grows with a large aging population in the United States, Scott and his team will continue to play an important role in constructing comfortable communities that provide the necessary resources for quality care.

The market is growing and with it, EBG is ready to grow, too. “We see expansion in the near future,” Scott notes. “We are looking into other geographical markets to enter in the next five years. During that time, we plan to be building another 15 assisted-living facilities and an additional 3,000 multifamily units.”

While the company has the capabilities to work outside of the multifamily market, EBG is sticking to what the team does best. The company is ramping up volume while staying true to an admirable philosophy: “We’re proven, but hungry, careful, but courageous, wise, but willing to try something new.”

Scott and his team are on a constant quest of improvement, drawing on new ideas, trends and technology to build better places to live. Backed by experience, humility and a hunger for excellence, The Engel Burman Group will continue to lead the regional market as a builder owner and operator of high-quality assisted-living and senior living communities.

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