Business: Big Man at Campus

As the CEO of Campus Apartments, David Adelman helped transform West Philly. Now he’s helping college kids all across the country live the luxe life. Tanning bed, anyone?

This new housing trend — catering to a spoiled Generation Y, and its spoiling parents, nationwide — is working. Last year, Campus Apartments invested more than $400 million in new acquisitions and development on college campuses across the country. Over the next two years, Adelman projects $700 million in transactions. (Yes, cha-ching is right.)  

Some of that dough was rolled into a new trend at Penn — “kiddie condos.” It’s exactly what it sounds like — parents buy condos for their kids. (Said kids summarily rent the extra rooms to friends.) “There are parents out there who say, ‘I don’t want to pay rent for three years. I want to buy something, but I don’t know the neighborhood,’” says Adelman. “Some people thought I was crazy, but I said, ‘Why don’t we do it?’”

IN THE COURSE of the flight, Adelman is quiet for about an hour while he reviews paperwork, stopping only to crack open a pack of Trident. He pops two pieces, then hands the pack to me. I take a piece, hand it back.

It’s an exhausting day of checking up on current apartment complexes. Adelman meets with his staff, giving the green light for, among other requests, pool cabanas and a movie projection screen. He also critiques: This room is too dark, let’s get a guy in here for pricing on lights. We need a painting or something for that space. Those apartment numbers don’t pop enough. What’s that storage unit doing in the back? We need to get rid of that.

On the flight home, he tells me, “They need to figure out how to get Internet on planes.” Not once does the self-proclaimed “King of the Power Nap” shut his eyes. Instead, he continues chatting about University City’s future, including Penn’s plans to develop property near the 30th Street post office. “The post office development is going to be huge,” he says, then trails off and looks out the window.

Eventually we begin to descend — 20,000 feet, 15,000 feet. When the city skyline and lights come into view below us, Adelman’s BlackBerry picks up a signal, and the phone calls ensue. “Yeah, I’m landing right now. Thank you for waiting. I can be there in 12, 15 minutes,” he tells his chiropractor. He checks his incoming voicemail and sends out a battery of texts.

Ever the businessman, he thanks me for coming, shakes my hand, and, at 7:30 p.m., races out the door.