Conifer Realty, which turns 40 this year, has 13,000 residential units

Published: July 7, 2015

Andrea Deckert, Staff Writer
Rochester Business Journal

“The key to Conifer Realty LLC’s success is based on the following formula: educated, enthusiastic employees plus well-developed properties equals a financially sound business. “It’s a model that has provided a great return for us,” said Timothy Fournier, president and CEO.

Conifer is a full-service real estate company specializing in the development, construction, management and ownership of affordable housing communities. This past spring, Affordable Housing Finance magazine recognized Conifer as the third most-active developer of such housing in the country. “It’s quite a testament to our perseverance,” Fournier said of its 40th anniversary.

Founded in 1975, Conifer has expanded not only the number of properties it owns and its geographic base but also its annual revenues. The business has nearly 13,000 residential units at 199 properties, plus 20 properties—with a total of some 1,320 units—under construction.

The firm has regional offices in Rochester; Syracuse; Columbia, Md.; Mount Laurel, N.J.; and Erie, Pa.
The company’s growth was helped by federal funding, first distributed as stimulus packages for affordable housing around the time of the 2008 global recession and then funding for housing in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Fournier said.

Conifer officials expect a 12 percent increase in revenues in 2015. The firm logged an 8.2 percent increase in 2014, 13.4 percent in 2013 and 17.3 percent in 2012. Employment has also grown. The company currently has more than 700 employees, up from more than 500 in 2014, more than 400 in 2013 and 315 in 2012. Its workforce has more than tripled since 2010. It has 91 employees at its main office on University Avenue and 171 associates working at its area properties. Roughly 17 percent of the firm’s portfolio is local, including 2,493 units in Monroe County.

Its local activities include:
-Recently taking over management of 504 units at Rochester Highlands on Westfall Road
-A restoration project underway in 114 units at Harris Park Apartments off Winton Road
-Completing a full historic preservation and new construction of 42 units at Market Apartments at Corpus Christi, which is 100 percent leased
-Building 56 units in Batavia, Genesee County, at Big Tree Glen Apartments, with the first units to be ready by the end of the year
-Working on two projects with the Volunteers of America Upstate New York chapter: one in Webster and another off Lake Avenue.

The jobs fuel employment for local trades as well as for employees who join Conifer to manage the new residential communities, said Sandra Gorie, Conifer’s vice president of marketing and communications.

Fournier said one of the biggest challenges is educating communities on the advantages of affordable housing. Besides the obvious benefit to the residents of such housing, it also boosts local economic development in terms of new jobs and revenue generation.

Dealing with federal and state agencies, where budget cuts have reduced headcounts, is another complication, he said.

Despite the challenges, Conifer continues to grow. The company has five new projects slated in Maryland over the next eight months and three projects in Pennsylvania.

Through its 10-year-old joint venture with LeChase Construction Services LLC, Conifer-LeChase Construction LLC, there are 22 projects in four states in the works.

Conifer is looking to expand geographically into states such as Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

With an average of 15 new projects each year, Fournier estimates Conifer will add roughly 30 employees annually to meet the demand.
Still, Fournier said Conifer is committed to Rochester.

“It’s been our home for the past 40 years, and I see that continuing very much into the future,” he said.”

adeckert@rbj.net / (585) 546-8303