(Editor’s note: This is one of two stories about developers who are being honored Nov. 4 for their work with the March of Dimes. The other, on Rella Fogliano, is on Page 30.)
It was back in 1987 that White Plains resident Louis R. Cappelli (along with his father Luca Cappelli) received the first March of Dimes Greater New York Market Real Estate Award.
Thirty-four years later, Cappelli, founder and managing member of the Cappelli Organization, will return to receive the Martin S. Berger Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 35th March of Dimes’ Westchester Real Estate Awards Breakfast on Nov. 4 at The Opus Westchester in White Plains. The award acknowledges individuals for their outstanding accomplishments in both the commercial real estate industry and in service to their communities.
A lot has happened since that first awards breakfast in Cappelli’s early career. He has played an integral role in the revitalization of downtown districts in Westchester and Fairfield counties — pioneering the construction of City Center, The Ritz-Carlton Residences and The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester (now The Opus Westchester) in White Plains; New Roc City in New Rochelle and Trump Plaza New Rochelle; and Atlantic Station in Stamford, to name just a few of his successful developments.
Cappelli’s roots go way back in the real estate construction and development world. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1973, he went right to work for his father’s contractor business, Saturn Construction. “My first job was driving trucks to deliver materials to job sites,” he recalls. “The company was building a lot of public schools and U.S. post offices. We were public bid contractors and didn’t build for ourselves until 1985.”
Interestingly, Cappelli said he spent a lot of time in the 1980s with developer Brad Berger, who introduced him to his father, Martin. “I started keeping my eye on the buildings they were constructing, owning and renting,” he says. “Martin was a great guy and like a second father to me. I would just pick his brain about development and he would council me for years and years. So, it is so wonderful to be receiving this award that was named for him,” Cappelli adds.
In 1985, Cappelli took a chance developing a 150,000-square-foot office building on speculation in Valhalla. “One day a car pulled up at the site and four executives got out. They were from New York Telephone and rented the whole building,” Cappelli says. Forming Cappelli Enterprises, the whole family then got involved in the development business, creating another 1 million square feet of space at what was to become the Summit at Westchester in Valhalla. The Valhalla properties would be among those that the Cappellis sold in 1998 to Reckson Associates, a publicly traded company, for approximately $200 million.
Starting his own company, Cappelli built New Roc City in 1995 and ’96. While Cappelli has developed 100-plus buildings since then that are worth more than $5 billion, he says the project he is proudest of is The Ritz-Carlton. “The Ritz-Carlton stands out because of the iconic stature of the two 45-story residence buildings and the hotel (now The Opus Westchester) and the major importance of bringing The Ritz-Carlton to Westchester. I now have 360 units there, all sold out, and there’s not one unhappy resident, including me, as I live there,” he adds.
Cappelli is still busy at work on a number of large projects. “We’re very focused on New Rochelle right now with four, 28-story high-rises that we are currently building,” he says. In White Plains, he is also starting two new $200 million projects, one called Gateway II at the train station and another at Hamilton Green at the White Plains Mall next to The Ritz-Carlton Residences. “We also just finished a three-year project called Atlantic Station I and II, a $150 million project with 650 units in Stamford about a month ago,” he says.
In addition to his business accomplishments, Cappelli has made it a priority to give back to the community. In 2000 he set up the Louis R. Cappelli Foundation, which addresses the needs of at-risk youth, particularly in the areas of education, health and fitness and arts education. “The goal is to assist disadvantaged children, but also to help women and the homeless,” Cappelli says. “To date, our nonprofit has awarded close to $15 million to different charities. Among the organizations Cappelli’s charity has donated to are White Plains Hospital, the White Plains Public School District and Gilda’s Club.
Cappelli points out that the March of Dimes has always been very close to his heart. “I’m going to be 70 this year and I was recognized 35 years ago for an unbelievable cause. Your first impression and recognition really sticks with you. I never forgot it and I still remember every word of the speech I gave,” he says. “In the end of the day, we’ve given and raised over $600,000 for the March of Dimes and hopefully we’ll raise over $500,000 at this upcoming event.”
For more, visit cappelliorg.com. And for more on the March of Dimes’ Westchester Real Estate Awards Breakfast, visit marchofdimes.org/events/Event.aspx?eventId=21929&.
Laura Joseph Mogil is a freelance writer residing in Briarcliff Manor. She is a frequent contributor to WAG magazine.