CRE Midwest

Indevor Investments' Al Zulanas talks traveling (back in time) and being a part of ATI Physical Therapy when it was just a start-up

Al-Zulanas-in-tux
Al Zulanas

Ask people where they see the greatest opportunity in Bolingbrook and many will point to industrial properties.

Ask people where they see the greatest opportunity in Bolingbrook and many will point to industrial properties. In the last 20 years, millions of square feet of high cube distribution buildings have been developed helping to solidify its place as one of Chicago’s top industrial markets. Still others will point to retail properties which have been developed to support the growing industrial and residential population there.

Al Zulanas, founder of Indevor Investments, recently directed the firm’s acquisition of a three-story, approximately 80,000-square-foot office building at 200 Remington Boulevard. The firm is in the process of a multi-million comprehensive renovation and re-positioning of the building, one of only a handful of office properties that he suggests represent a great investment opportunity.

Zulanas is no stranger to Bolingbrook investments. In 2007 his firm acquired a 135,000-square-foot flex building that now serves as the corporate headquarters for ATI Physical Therapy, one of the largest businesses of its kind. Illinois Real Estate Journal set out to get better acquainted with Alan. Read on and learn more about Al and Indevor Investments.

Illinois Real Estate Journal: Can you tell me what you do at Indevor Investments?

Zulanas: In my role as founder and executive director of Indevor Investments, my primary focus is to build a portfolio of CRE investments that deliver above market returns for my investors. I manage all aspects of the RE asset life-cycle including investment identification/negotiation, underwriting, financing, capital budgeting, equity raise, investor relations, brokerage management, tenant lease-up, and monetization/recapitalization. With full knowledge of each transaction including finance, legal, and construction, I am able to be fully accountable to my partners and investors.

IREJ: What first attracted you to the business?

Zulanas: There have been a confluence of several experiences which directed my path into CRE. Growing up in a family beer distribution business on the south side/suburbs of Chicago, my family owned and managed commercial/industrial real estate. My brothers and I utilized CRE as an estate planning tool to acquire our third generation family business.

Also, while studying electrical engineering, I spent summers and vacations as an apprentice electrician rehabbing a vacant 100,000-square-foot industrial/commercial office building. my first value-add real estate opportunity. As a sales engineer for Westinghouse Electric and Cutler Hammer, I gained a hands-on education in building systems.

My transition to commercial real estate investments was instilled by my MBA program at CU Boulder and a long-time mentor and uncle, Vyto Kaminskas, who was a highly successful commercial real estate developer in southern California. CRE holds incredible opportunities for long-term wealth creation.

IREJ: What project or experience has been most memorable for you?

Zulanas: My first ground-up development was the most memorable experience to date. The project was a speculative 40,000-square-foot off-campus medical office building which faced many challenges during its life-cycle. The best decision I made was selecting an experienced design build contractor in Clayco Construction and their design team at Forum Studio. The project turned out to be a very successful and has been a core asset in our CRE portfolio from its completion in 2005.

IREJ: On a more personal note, how do you spend your time off?

Zulanas: As much as I can, I love spending time with my wife, Lisa, and our two sons, Henry (3.5 yrs old) and William (14 months old), golf, yoga, hiking, traveling, and trying new restaurants in Chicago.

IREJ: So you're a big fan of traveling...which city has so far been your favorite?

Zulanas: The favorite city I have ever visited is Vienna, Austria. My wife, Lisa, and I went to Vienna on our honeymoon and we were overwhelmed with the beautiful architecture and cultural eventse. Ironically, our favorite activity was drinking Viannese coffee and eating breakfast (“Fruhstuck”) at the myriad of street cafés.

IREJ: How about people? If you could meet anyone "famous" who would it be?

Zulanas: If I could go back in time, I would love to meet Ben Franklin. The man’s life and influence on American history has always interested me. Aside from his notable accomplishments as a Founding Father and diplomat, he was one of seventeen children and a prolific inventor. I can’t imagine a more well-rounded, fun-loving, and approachable person to have a conversation with.

IREJ: What's one thing you would cross-off your bucket list next, if you could?

Zulanas: Although my wife grew up in the UK, neither of us has ever been to Scotland. We have plans for a tour of Scotland including visiting medieval castles, sampling fine Scottish whisky, and playing a few rounds of golf at some of the world’s most nostalgic (and difficult) golf courses.

IREJ: What's one surprising thing about yourself that not many people know?

Zulanas: I am the youngest of seven boys in my family. My mother is a living saint for putting up with such a rowdy bunch of boys.

IREJ: What's the best piece of professional or personal advice you've ever received?

Zulanas: The best CRE investment advice I have ever received was from John Kuhlman, founder/owner of Kuhlman Design in St. Louis. His advice has stuck with me and influenced my thinking on CRE investments. His advice was “When acquiring a commercial property, have the ability to hold the asset for at least 10 years because the CRE industry tends to have 10-year business cycles.”

IREJ: What are some accomplishments you're most proud of?

Zulanas: Like most people participating in these profiles, my family—my wife and two boys—are the greatest personal accomplishments. I am very proud of my family which is still very young at this stage!

One of the accomplishments I am most proud is the influence I was able to have on a small healthcare startup, ATI Physical Therapy. I joined my college friend’s business in 2003 (as employee #30) to write the business plan and then managed its first PE transaction. I developed the real estate department and held several management roles. ATI now has over 600 clinics in 24 states and is the most well-positioned outpatient rehabilitation company in the US.