By attaching itself to the University, a local property manager has seen its fortunes skyrocket alongside Yale’s.
In the early 1990s, real-estate manager D.J. Ornato decided to break with his business partner and concentrate solely on managing the commercial and residential property the University owns. Since then, Off-Broadway Inc., Ornato’s company, has grown rapidly, this year acquiring new tenants on Chapel Street and Broadway. The firm also administered the off-campus undergraduate room draw this year for the first time, under a modified procedure. While some problems arose in the rooming process, students generally reacted well to the new manager.
Though his firm has only one client, Ornato said he has more than enough on his hands.
“It’s a very detailed, complex, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week business,” Ornato said.
In recent months, that business has expanded to takeover the responsibilities held by Schiavone Management Co. on Broadway and Chapel. Yale fired Schiavone following a bitter public-relations war in which the firm sued the University twice. Off-Broadway is now in the process of acclimating itself to its new tenants.
“We have a very strong staff, with very good backup,” Ornato said. “We’ll obviously have to work a little longer and absorb new routines to deal with new tenants, residents and all the details, but we’re in good shape.”
University Properties director John Maturo said he is pleased with the firm’s performance in responding to problems that arise.
“Obviously you can’t get everything, but as a management company, you’d be hard pressed to beat them,” Maturo said.
Put in charge of undergraduate off-campus housing for the first time, Off-Broadway attempted to make the process easier for students and to prevent a sense of urgency or panic. In February students had a 10-day window to apply to enter a lottery. The firm then randomly assigned numbers to order the applicants from 1 to 140. The next step was determining which apartments would be available and which tenants wanted to continue their lease for next year. Unfortunately for students looking for next year, the space available may be limited.
“We’ve reviewed an enormous number, and we don’t have a whole lot to offer people,” Ornato said.
The off-campus housing market became increasingly tight this year, because the Oxford and Cambridge Arms apartment buildings on High Street, which house many undergraduates, will be closed in the fall for renovations.
Henry Tibensky ’03 and Dave Affinito ’03 entered the lottery this year, but found luck was not on their side. After drawing the 123rd pick, both made other housing arrangements for next year. But both said they felt Off-Broadway was handling the process well.
“They’re really friendly and very helpful,” Tibensky said.
Ornato realized his process is not perfect and plans on making adjustments in the future.
“It’s a very difficult process when you have more demand than supply,” Ornato said. “Hopefully next year we’ll have a better plan.”
Applications for off-campus housing for the 2002-2003 school year are now available, and Ornato said students would be wise to sign up now.