Starting Out in Business
After the war, Ed and Angelo worked for the Veterans Administration, training disabled servicemen. They moved on to set up their own school for handicapped veterans, but in 1949 decided to try their hand at real estate. "We started as investors with a builder in some housing projects, but that wasn’t very gratifying, so we started out on our own and learned the business from scratch," says Angelo Cali. "We were building houses in many relatively small projects and we got into income-producing properties relatively late — around 1961. It was a matter of sophistication more than anything else because we were all educators. None of us had a technical or business background, so we garnered that information and that sophistication as we went along."
"It was difficult to see in those days the very clear advantages of ownership and retention. It was difficult to see that you could build many apartments without needing a lot of capital. We made the assumption that you needed a lot of money, and we didn’t, really. We eventually found that we could slowly reinvest and control."
By 1983, the three partners were ready to diversify and decided to sell off most of their multi-family properties, converting others into condos. Many of the apartment holdings lent themselves to condo conversion, Angelo Cali notes, such as the Parsons Village development in Morristown, NJ., built in 1964 and including one- and two-bedroom townhouses.
"Of all the things Cali has done," remarks John J. Cali, "apartment building was its cup of tea. We loved to do it. We were profitable, very successful, knew how to manage the properties and had waiting lists in every one of our developments. We stopped because the economics prevented it. There came a time when the high costs of construction, inflation and rent controls made it impossible to deliver units that were affordable. It was just out of sight."
Cali made its first major foray into office development in 1969 with completion of the 63,000-square-foot 13 Commerce Drive in Cranford, NJ. While most new office development activity was taking place
in East Orange, NJ., Cali opted to go to a more outlying area and began to build on what is now the 880-acre Cranford Business Park. Today, the site contains six Class A Cali buildings totalling 500,000 square feet.
Known as the Clocktower Building, Cali's Cranford N.J. development is the 176,600 sq.-ft. 20 Commerce Drive.
Cali’s latest development in Cranford is the 176,600-square-foot 20 Commerce Drive, completed in 1990, and featuring a distinctive architectural design. The building’s two wings join at a 55-foot-high glass atrium lobby, the interior of which is appointed with lush greenery, spacious seating areas and overhanging balconies. A reflective glass and pre-cast concrete exterior is highlighted by a dramatic clock cupola atop the atrium tower. The fourstory structure, known as the Clocktower Building, features floor plates averaging 43,000 square feet, sophisticated energy conserving systems and ample on-site parking with 88 covered spaces. John J. Cali reports the building currently is 30% leased with more than 100,000 square feet of leases under negotiation.
Cali has achieved a reputation in New Jersey for developing aesthetically appealing office parks and residential projects. Seven Cali office buildings—more than any other builder/developer—have been recipients of the prestigious New Jersey New Good Neighbor Award sponsored by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. The award is given for "architectural merit of the building and grounds, the enhancement of the company’s value to the area and for providing visual beauty as one of its many excellent community relations." Cali also was named "Developer of the Year" in 1986 by the New Jersey Subcontractors Association and "Division I Developer of the Year" in 1990 by the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks.
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