Rella Fogliano, founder and CEO of The MacQuesten Companies, launched her enterprise after growing up in the industry. She was the only child of prominent general contractor, Sabino Fogliano, and began spending time at construction sites at just six years old. At seventeen, Ms. Fogliano began working part-time in her father’s construction company, which was founded in 1960.
After graduating from Fordham University in 1983, Fogliano started working with her father full-time. She took the wheel in 1988 when her father retired, forming MacQuesten General Contracting, Inc. and keeping many of the same clients.
Fogliano did not rest on her laurels. By the early ‘90s, she was ready for the next challenge and began to develop properties her company had acquired, particularly in the Bronx. Her extensive experience gave her insight into the housing situation throughout the New York Metropolitan area, and she recognized a serious lack of affordable housing and set out to remedy the problem.
The Hughes Avenue Crescent housing development completed in 1996—and still in use today—was Fogliano’s first example of success in the affordable housing market. Built to house 63 families, the project was funded through the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation, the proceeds of tax credits, and conventional financing.
Fogliano continued her entrepreneurial endeavors in 2003, launching MacQuesten Construction Management, LLC and MacQuesten Development, LLC. The companies complement one another, focusing on the financing, design, and construction management of multi-family and commercial properties, including privately holding these properties. “MacQuesten Development is the driving force behind acquisition and financing,” Fogliano explains. “MacQuesten Construction Management is just as the name states—it manages the construction for the ownership entity of which I am the Principal.”
Since its founding, MacQuesten has grown steadily from four employees to fifteen, with an accounting department, paralegal services, and an Executive Vice President all in-house. The companies’ projects have soared from an initial 63 units to over 1,500 and, in value, from an $8.5 million project to one worth $100 million. Perhaps most notably, The MacQuesten Companies have set a new standard for women in a traditionally male-dominated industry. “We are the largest woman-owned development company in the State of New York,” Fogliano shares.
She says that the main strategy for growth was a “slow and steady” approach, as well as “not taking on more than we could handle—completing every project in spite of what, to others, may have been insurmountable obstacles.”
The company culture is still deeply impacted by the years that Fogliano spent at her father’s side. “My father instilled in me a very strong work ethic,” she says. “I’m happy to report that everyone on the MacQuesten team shares this as well; nobody on our staff watches the clock. When we need to meet a deadline, I can depend on every member of our team to respond at practically all hours.” The team also shares the belief that “no job or task is too small or too big to handle.” Their overall approach can be summed up by the company values: “Commitment to excellence on every level and in every area.”
Fogliano has maintained her strong commitment to affordable housing and the company has completed a string of notable firsts in the sector. The MacQuesten Companies successfully built Palmer Court Homes in 2001 as one of the first projects under the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) which, at the time, had just been formed as the New Housing Opportunities Program (NHOPS).
The Tony Mendez Apartments mark another New York State first. Built on property formally owned by the City of New York, the project was funded under the State of New York Homes and Community Renewal’s (HCR) Homes for Working Families Program and Tax Exempt Bond Financing through HDC. After completing New York City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the land went to Madison Court Associates, LP, an affiliate of MacQuesten Development.
Fogliano says her experience in the affordable housing sector has been “challenging but satisfying.” She goes on to explain that what began as a shrewd business plan has become much more. “At first I viewed it as an entry point to real estate development such as large commercial / retail / office buildings. But I quickly realized that the need for affordable housing was greater and did not succumb to fluctuating market conditions. Now we are seeing developers of those large office parks looking to enter into affordable housing. So this reinforces our vision. When we started, the term ‘affordable housing’ was looked down upon, but now affordable housing is a hot topic on a national level.”
The MacQuesten Companies have also actively embraced green construction. The group began incorporating sustainability and green elements into all stages of a project—design, development, and construction—back in 2006. The team partnered with R3 Energy Group mid-construction to complete the Highland Senior Residence Project, located in Yonkers, NY. The partnered companies applied to NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program together and MacQuesten utilized multiple energy efficient elements—including a co-generator—to achieve energy-efficient building status. The hard work paid off and NYSERDA named Highland Senior Residence an Energy Star Building in 2011.
MacQuesten continued along its green path with the redesign of the Rev. Dr. Fletcher C. Crawford Apartments in 2010. The project included Energy Star rated windows, appliances, and co-generation. The MacQuesten Companies completed another green project, Heritage Homes in the City of New Rochelle, NY, in 2013. This project utilized a wide range of sustainable building materials, from recycled cement board exterior, Energy Star rated windows, and bamboo floors to Energy Star appliances, individual Energy Star domestic water heaters, and central air conditioning. The company showcased its green construction skills once again with 22 South West in Mount Vernon, an affordable luxury building featuring its own co-generator. Two more building projects, Mother Arnetta Crawford Apartments and The Modern, have been designed to achieve a LEED certification standard of Silver or higher.
The team has several exciting upcoming projects planned for this year. “Last year we closed on and are currently building a 108-unit affordable mixed-use property in Brooklyn,” Fogliano reports. “We also have a pipeline of projects in southern Westchester County.” This includes the St. Clair, a 76-unit multifamily 10-story building in the City of Yonkers’ downtown area, and Crescent Manor, a 74-unit Senior Housing development in the Village of Ossining. “This will be our first Passive House construction,” says Fogliano.
After twenty successful years in business, celebration is in order—but ever committed to the job, the team does not want to take attention away from the work at hand. When asked how they will mark the occasion, Fogliano replied that they are “too busy closing a new $75 million project in June” to take the time. “I suppose we will wait until our 25th anniversary!”
Of course, there is plenty to be done between now and that next anniversary. “We have a lot in our pipeline,” Fogliano says. “In addition to the St. Clair and Crescent Manor we are working on the development of a 300-unit affordable housing / retail building in New Rochelle as well as a 160-unit affordable housing project in the City of Yonkers.”
When it comes to the long-term future of the Companies, the vision is to maintain the same path that has brought solid success thus far. “I think we are in a good place and will continue to take on projects that make sense to us,” Fogliano says. “We’ve accomplished a lot and will continue to do so.”