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Owner/manager puts service first.

When the elevator systems and cabs were being modernized at Atco Properties' 555 Fifth Avenue, Senior Vice President Peter L. DiCapua decided to install a television and VCR in the lobby so tenants and their visitors would have something to watch for the extra minute or so they had to wait for an elevator. Captive elevator riders gathered to watch the Iran-Contra hearings, which were being conducted at the time.

"We had a build-up of people in the lobby," said DiCapua, "not because they were waiting for the elevator. They were watching TV."

The idea, DiCapua said, was to get the maximum appreciation for the renovation without disrupting tenants.

A television, tuned to CNN, is now a permanent fixture at Atco's 381 Park Avenue South.

DiCapua said this idea stemmed from the service-first attitude of Atco Properties & Management, Inc. and its parent company. Atco is the management subsidiary of the Hemmerdinger Corporation, which is headed by H. Dale Hemmerdinger and owns more than 50 buildings in the New York metropolitan area.

"I don't think I would have thought of that if the whole mode of this company wasn't giving tenants service," he said. " ... Reacting to what tenants feel is something I think we do very well."

The company also sponsors a "tenant lunch program", in which a senior person from Atco takes an executive from each tenant company out to lunch to listen to their needs and check on how the building is meeting them.

Providing quality service to tenants, DiCapua said, allows them to "sit on the best side" of the tenants when renewal time comes.

"We've lost tenants in this bad market, but not because we haven't serviced them," said DiCapua.

Making Buildings Competitive

In addition to service, DiCapua said, the firm is helping its older buildings compete by making them more modern and attractive. Over the past seven years, each of its commercial, residential and industrial properties has underwent or begun an extensive capital improvement program, spearheaded by Atco's in-house construction subsidiary developed by DiCapua.

In 1990, Atco completed a major $3 million-plus renovation at 555 Fifth Avenue, at 46th Street, its headquarters building and the flagship Wallachs Department Store. The building's entranceway was fitted with a polished bronze and lighted canopy bearing the building's address. Gray granite columns flank each side. The interior now boasts new elevator systems and bronze and pink marble cabs with a voice synthesizer announcing the floors. The new public corridors are adorned with marble flooring, new ceilings and energy-efficient lighting. The new lobby contains a waterfall in which fresh flowers are placed every Monday, and a new security system was installed.

Next year the building will be getting a new curtain wall.

In 1986, the company began a renovation strategy for the 1 million-square-foot Atlas Terminals, a 38-building industrial complex in Glendale, Queens. In all, nine buildings have been completed in this on-going project. Many of the improvements helped change the buildings to appeal to the shifting needs of many of its tenants from manufacturing to warehousing, distribution and office space. A new building was added to the complex to serve as a store for K-9 Caterers, the largest pet food supermarket in New York City.

In 1989, Atco was presented with the Queens Chamber of Commerce 1989 First Place Building Award for its rehabilitation and modernization of the Atlas Terminals main building. Named after the Atlas Waste Manufacturing Company, the complex was started in the 1920's by Henry Hemmerdinger, H. Dale Hemmerdinger's grandfather.

The company pioneered its adaptive re-use of older buildings at its 373 and 381 Park Avenue South, near 26th to 27th Streets in Manhattan.

The firm also owns two residential rental apartment buildings at 40 Central Park South and 41 West 58th Street. The key to managing those buildings, DiCapua said, is "a lot of patience."

Atco also has a consulting division and DiCapua is a consulting engineer in property acquisition, development and maintenance for the real estate and legal community.

Industry Man

DiCapua also contributes his time to the betterment of the real estate community at large. He said it's his way of giving back to the industry that has been his home since he left U.S. Navy 22 years ago.

"This particular industry has been very good to me," he said.

DiCapua is president of The Owners Committee on Electric Rates, an association of the major commercial and industrial real estate customers. The organization, with the backing of the Real Estate Board of New York, is currently challenging Con Ed's $925 million electric rate increase over three years.

"This is serious $1 billion is a lot of money ... and in today's market, it's unconscionable," he said.

He is also president-elect of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA); vice chairman of the Management Board of Directors, Real Estate Board of New York; a director of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations; a director of the New York Building Congress; and a member of the Audit Committee of Building Owners and Managers' Association International.

He is one of the founding directors of The Pyramid Ball for Juvenile Diabetes.

This year DiCapua was the recipient of the Real Estate Board of New York's Management Man of the Year.

DiCapua said he is happy to say that he has done everything in this industry while with Atco. Longevity is the norm at Atco, he said. President Dale Hemmerdinger has also been with the company for more than 20 years, as have been a number of the company's officers.

"It's a very close knit family, yet we're not related," he said.
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Title Annotation:profile on Peter L. DiCapua of Atco Properties and Management Inc.
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jun 10, 1992
Previous Article:$250M investment fund formed.
Next Article:New firm rises from Midlantic sale.

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