Since 2015, MRK Partners, Inc. has acquired, rehabilitated, preserved and developed affordable housing properties that are the definition of quality. Over just six years, Founder and President Sydne Garchik has grown the company to maintain a presence on both the West and East Coasts and established MRK as a leader in holistic affordable housing creation.
MRK’s portfolio now includes over 4,000 units throughout California, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia and Florida, with another 1,500 units in its development pipeline. It recently opened a second office in Boca Raton, Florida, allowing the company to develop deeper relationships with partners and communities as its Florida portfolio expands.
Despite industry-wide setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, MRK has continued to grow, demonstrating the firm’s resiliency and the strength of Garchik’s leadership. Garchik says the pandemic has galvanized the affordable housing sector toward change, giving developers and their partners new opportunities to make a real difference in the lives of residents.
“As we look out in the future and look at our communities, we’re really thinking about the economic impact of the pandemic-both short-term and long-term-and trying to adjust our services and anything else that we can do in the future accordingly,” she says.
QUALITY AND COMMUNITY
One of the hallmarks of MRK’s properties is how well they fit into their surrounding communities and how they build communities of their own. The company’s mission is not only to make each development feel like home and craft a sense of community within the building but also to connect its properties to the larger communities they’re a part of.
“We believe that improvement is not just within our individual community but also within the local community. How do we help-as much as we can-both be successful?” Garchik says. “For example, during COVID-19, we instituted some resident volunteers to do wellness checks. They called residents to say, ‘Hey, how are you doing? Are you okay? I’m here if you need me.’ And then, additionally, we provided meals from local restaurants to residents that needed them and said, ‘Here’s how we’re trying to benefit a local resource to build upon the community and bring that in to our smaller community.’ [We’re asking ourselves), how do we, at a micro and more of a macro level, generate positive improvements?”
Holistic resident services also serve to build community. MRK’s resident services platform includes health and wellness initiatives, after-school programs, adult education classes, computer lab access, career development and financial planning-many of which are provided through its service partner, Rainbow Housing. To take its service programming a step further, the company is exploring ways to both integrate services on site in community spaces and do more for residents through benefits like scholarship programs.
MRK’s portfolio continues to grow with new and innovative properties. In Detroit, Michigan, the team recently completed an in-place rehabilitation of the Cathedral Apartments, a 236-unit multifamily property. The community received substantial upgrades, including new kitchen cabinets, countertops and plumbing fixtures; stainless-steel, energy-efficient appliances; new flooring; new heating and cooling systems; energy-efficient lighting; and updated window systems.
The effort preserved the property’s affordability for another 45 years. Uniland Corporation served as the construction manager for the development.
“In order to achieve a successful multifamily renovation project within an occupied building, you need solid leadership and a cohesive team, along with a symphony of communication and coordination to minimize impacts to the residents, community operations and construction schedule,” says Aaron Rosenhaus, Chief Operating Officer of Uniland Corporation. “Performing such a project with the additional challenges of the last few years was successfully executed due to the high-level communication and drive of Sydne and the MRK Partners team.”
MRK is now underway on a ground-up senior development south of Miami, Florida, called Sol Vista Apartments.
The property is the second phase of the Casa Devon rehabilitation MRK completed in 2019. By splitting the parcel into two, MRK is adding an additional 200 affordable senior apartments, essentially doubling the community’s units.
“Especially with COVID-19 and the increasing competition in the space and talking about creativity [with capital], we had to look at our portfolio to take advantage of the low- hanging fruit and the current value-add…” says Hai Nguyen, MRK’s Director of Acquisitions. “That’s exciting news for us, being able to still do that in the midst of everything going on right now.”
MRK’s growing portfolio, its efforts in the industry and its future plans all stand as a testament to the successful leadership Garchik has used to develop her company. To the future female leaders in affordable housing, she leaves some sage advice.
“First, it’s a journey; be patient. If you love what you’re doing and find what you love, then you’ll weather the good times and the bad,” she says. “Second, learn how to think around a problem. I think some of the best advice and learning I did in my career is understanding [there] are different ways to get to a solution. And three, have fun. Sometimes life is messy, but if you are laughing and sharing those experiences with those that matter, then it will all work out.”