For Capstone Building Corporation’s Jay Chapman, the key to success is all in the relationships he builds.
Written by Alex Watson
Photo by Beau Gustafson
Since its founding in 1997, Capstone Building Corporation’s expertise and longevity has firmly set it as a leader in the multi-family construction industry. The company boasts 86 completed projects across 22 states, totaling an estimated $1.25 billion in build cost.
While other competitors have experimented in a variety of construction realms, Capstone Building Corporation is recognized for its commitment to the multi-family sector.
Capstone Building Corporation’s featured developments have included Plant 64 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which was renovated out of one of the country’s oldest tobacco buildings, and The Jefferson in New Britain, Connecticut, which received the highly esteemed environmental ENERGY STAR award. They are currently under construction for The Summit at Fritz Farm, a Bayer Properties mixed-use retail, restaurant, and living development in Lexington, Kentucky.
Jay Chapman has been in the construction industry for the entirety of his more than 30-year career. He began as superintendent for Robins & Morton and quickly worked his way up to project manager. Chapman went on to found Capstone Building Corporation in 1997.
“Mike Moran founded Capstone Development. He asked me to go to work for him in the mid-1990s to build his student housing product for him in-house,” Chapman says. “After a few years, his business model changed a little bit with the way university projects were being awarded, and I saw the need to diversify and do some other types of projects. Apartments, student housing, and certain types of condominiums are all the same product really. I was able to get some clients who were committed to us and with whom we could negotiate our work.”
Capstone Building Corporation began as a general contractor focused on constructing student housing across the United States for Capstone
Development. In 2003, Chapman bought out his partner and moved out from under the Capstone Development umbrella. Under Chapman’s leadership, Capstone Building Corporation fully moved into the multi-family housing sector by 2007.
The timing was right. “I think multi-family is now a cultural phenomenon,” Chapman says. “When I grew up, if I had rented my mother would have cried and thought I would never amount to anything. In those days if you didn’t have a house, if you didn’t have grass to cut, (people might wonder,) ‘Well, who are you?’ It is so different now. People don’t think like that. In those days, you could buy a house and build value over time. Now, I am not sure you can do that. Plus, people want to be able to get up and go any time they want to. They want to live closer to the city. I don’t see it changing.”
As an example Chapman cites the Moretti Apartments that his company completed in Homewood near Vulcan. “There were people telling me building there was a mistake. You can’t see the property very well, and the traffic signal is difficult. It was a tremendous success. You could have built 1,000 units there and still sold them. You build a nice pool and a nice product, and that is where the younger folks want to be,” Chapman says.
Capstone is approximately a $100 million company in terms of revenue, or about five projects a year. Some years revenue is higher, some years less; it is a question of timing on job completions.
While revenue may fluctuate, one aspect of the business that Chapman holds steady are the relationships with clients and subcontractors.
Here in Birmingham, developer The Dobbins Group is a regular partner in Capstone’s construction projects. The Summit project that is being developed by Bayer Properties in Lexington, Kentucky features multi-family housing developed by Dobbins and constructed by Capstone. It is the pair’s third project together. A current project in Atlanta is Capstone’s 15th project with Penrose, a developer out of Philadelphia.
“Our estimating department stays backlogged with projects that our developer partners are considering,” Chapman says. “The kind of work we do
requires relationships. You have to service them, and when they need something, you need to get it for them. That is what we do.”
After two decades in business, relationships remain a cornerstone of the company’s success. “The good multi-family subcontractors travel,” Chapman says. “We have relationships that go all the way back to when we started. We have a database of subs that travel to wherever we are. We also use local subs at our job sites.
“We once had projects in Stockton, California; Providence; and Nashville all at the same time, and we had the same brick mason on all three jobs.”
There is not a detail that Chapman doesn’t take seriously when it comes to his company’s projects. You won’t find Chapman at his desk; you’ll find him on–site. He believes in leading by example, and he is there selecting industry experts and empowering his team to assist clients from preconstruction to completion.
The company employs about 50 people on salary to manage the various projects as well as administrative functions.
Chapman isn’t just focused on building his own team of experts, however; he’s working to build a stronger future for the entire industry. He partners with Auburn University to allow building science and construction majors to mentor with Capstone, so they can gain hands–on experience and develop skills for their future careers.
Chapman is an active part of the industry and currently serves as a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. of Alabama, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the Association of College and University Housing Officers International (ACUHOI), and the Birmingham Rotary Club. He is a booster for Auburn University’s Shug Jordan Society, where he also mentors students in the Building Science Department.
Chapman holds the general contractor state licenses for Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.