My Story: Bernard Felder
Sanctuary Residential founder and president Bernard Felder tells us that he's always wanted to build things--as a child, he watched houses and buildings under construction, and helped his dad build things. (Don't deny the power of Legos.) Since then, he's overseen the finance and development of about 6,700 multifamily units worth more than $700M--and at his new company, there's a lot more to come.
When Bernard, a native of Roanoke Rapids, was in college at UNC Charlotte, he worked part-time for the renowned Charlotte GC McDevitt & Street Co (now Bovis Lend Lease) and thought his career would be in construction. (The hardhat is deceptively stylish.) But his time as a HUD fellow in graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill and an internship at Durham Housing Authority turned him to the development side. Out of school, he worked for Duke Energy's real estate group, then at Bank of America's community development group. "I was in a leadership role in the team that redeveloped Earl Village into First Ward Place," he says. "That helped begin the revitalization of downtown Charlotte. Whatever else I do, I'll always be proud of my involvement with that project."
When Wood Partners wanted to start a new division to develop non-traditional housing--affordable properties, seniors housing, student housing, and more--the company turned to Bernard (snapped here with wife Loraine at a recent Urban League Awards Dinner). For the last 13 years as a partner and regional director for Wood, he developed residential all over the country, with special expertise in affordable housing. But he never lost his love for Charlotte (he says he'd never live anywhere else) or lost sight of opportunities closer to home. "I like the difficult deals," he says. "I used to have hair on my head, and as the deals got harder, my hair got thinner." (On the bright side, his comb budget has shrunk significantly.) This past summer, he founded Sanctuary. The response so far has been good, he says, and expects to announce a deal in the not-too-distant future.
Now's an opportune time, Bernard says, to leverage his experience and relationships in the industry to start his own company. "It's a fantastic time to be in multifamily development," he explains. The company will specialize in what he knows best--non-traditional product, including infill affordable and student housing, but also market-rate opportunities as they arise. He expects to do infill projects in both city and suburban markets. For now, Sanctuary will mainly focus on the Carolinas, coastal Virginia, and south to the Atlanta MSA. "There are enough opportunities here to keep us busy for a very long time," he says. There are also a lot of fish in the sea, as shown by this photo of a successful fishing trip.
When his three sons were younger, Bernard coached them in all kinds of sports, but now that they're older, the family goes as many places as they can, clipping pages from 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. (Above, he's snapped with sons Justyn and Joseph in Paris; his other son is Brandon.) Bernard traveled a great deal with Wood Partners, but that didn't dull his appetite for educational and pleasure travel. Recently the family went to the Dominican Republic, which he reports was "beyond all expectations," and they're planning to go to China next.