Run, Bike, Flip
Developer Borko Milosev uses his vivacity and ambition to tackle one of Bethlehem's biggest buildings
Want to feel lazy? Talk to Borko Milosev, he bikes through the Alps, climbs Kilimanjaro, runs marathons, he manages multi-family units, he buys big buildings, he rips down outdated interiors and rebuilds, he collects art - it,s difficult to see where there,s any down time. And that,s the way Milosev likes it. His most recent adventure, converting the 10-story Santander office building. on the corner of Center Street and Elizabeth Avenue, meant taking one of the tallest buildings in Bethlehem and transforming it into a luxury apartment residence.
An American Success Story
Born in Serbia, formerly Yugoslavia, Milosev came to the U.S. as an exchange student for his senior year of high school. Just by chance, he ended up here, in Bethlehem, with a family, attending Wilson High School and Moravian College thereafter, where he earned degrees in math and financial economics. At Moravian, Milosev met his future boss who introduced him to the world of banking with a coveted internship in New York City. “He was Global Head of Real Estate for Wachovia Bank with a $60-80 billion balance sheet,” explained Milosev. “He brought me in at first for a month. They paid me very little, I couldn’t afford to live in the city, so I was taking the bus for two hours up and two hours back, working long hours finishing up at 8 or 10 p.m.” Milosev added with a laugh that many nights were spent on the floor of the office with a sleeping bag for a bed. “I would literally sleep under my desk. When someone throws you in the deep end you either sink or swim.”
Milosev attributes much of that survival attitude to growing up in a war-torn region. “There is a lot of bad that goes with war. But I guess the good thing is that you then appreciate when you see an opportunity, you end up grabbing onto it and not letting go.”
That ambition hasn’t waned. After establishing a career in banking, Milosev decided he wanted to focus full-time on his first passion: real estate development. “All along I was buying real estate and by 2010 it was becoming sizeable and I was having trouble managing both roles.” After striking an investment deal with his mentor, Milosev returned to the Valley and began expanding his development business, Post Road Management. Since then he’s taken on projects no one else seemed to want, like last year’s renovation of downtown Easton’s Centre Square, the century-old former hotel turned mixed -use property.
Tall Order Renovation
Milosev and his partner bought the Elizabeth Avenue property two years ago. The foreclosed high-rise was entirely made up of office spaces, with a low 40 percent occupancy. The windows were outdated, there were heating issues, and the interiors were straight from the 80s. Yet, Milosev saw the potential: beautiful views of Moravian College, Liberty football field and Bethlehem’s skyline. Milosev also had the idea to convert it from a strictly commercial building, to mixed-use, with commercial spaces occupying the first floors and residential units on the upper floors. So that began, as Milosev puts it, a process of musical chairs, relocating all of the existing commercial tenants down to the first four floors. “As we cleared out the upper six floors we got approval to build out 48 apartment units,” said Milosev. What they decided to do was build something they didn’t see available in the Valley — ultra-luxury apartments. “Like something you might see in Philadelphia and New York; we built them in a way to cater to a population that we think are underserved and that’s empty nesters.” (although Milosev quickly pointed out that all ages are welcome).
With an eye toward people who want to downsize from a large home, Milosev wanted to give them a smaller space without taking away any of the amenities they’ve come to expect. Apartments here are designed to be oversized by 25-50 percent, with an open floor plan made for entertaining and lots of closet space. Bathrooms are inspired by luxury hotels in Europe and New York, appointed with a separate bath and shower area and sleek designs like a glass shower partition that keeps the bathroom open.
Seeing the potential in properties is what Milosev has been doing since he purchased his first home while still in college. On West Broad Street in Bethlehem, the single-family home needed, well, attention. “It was a foreclosed home that was improperly winterized,” explained Milosev. “The ceiling had collapsed and flooded the lower level. ...It looked pretty ugly.” Being a good son, Milosev sent pictures of his purchase to his mother. “She called back crying,” he added with a laugh, “‘What did you buy?’ “It’s just an attitude of life to see beyond the ugly, to say, ‘this has good bones,’ to see the potential.”
Community Spaces of the Future
Beyond just changing the office spaces into apartment buildings, Milosev wanted to transform the unused basement space into a vibrant community area. To do this, the developer added a large storage area with lockers and bike racks, a community lounge and game room that not only includes foosball and air-hockey, but a 60-game, 80s stand-up arcade game. Next door is a lunchroom, a gym, (which will feature complimentary training sessions and nutritional counseling for tenants) library and conference rooms. Giant murals, local photography and vintage fashion prints speak to Milosev’s taste for the eclectic. “We really wanted to make these spaces into places people could go to feel connected with their neighbors and to have fun,” added Milosev. Oh, and did we mention the electronic package concierge? Designed for all those Amazon orders, it’s like rental locker meets mailbox, and is operated all with a swipe of your smartphone.
High Impact Hobbies
“What I learned was that if I have a goal, it’s much easier for me to do something and make it much more fun.” That’s how Milosev describes how he ended up on the side of one of the highest mountains in the world. About a decade ago, Milosev found himself wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle, away from the high-stress, high-partying New York financial scene. Like his business life, he wasn’t about to go small on these aspirations. Swimming turned to running, which quickly morphed into biking. With that fitness regime in place, the next logical step for Milosev was triathlons and the Iron Man - no less. Commenting about the dedication required for such a torturous race, Milosev said humbly, “It gives you motivation to get out of bed.”
But that’s not the only physical adventure the developer has undertaken. He’s biked from San Francisco to Los Angeles and did a similar trip through the French Alps, climbed Mount Rainier and Mount Kilimanjaro, and may be climbing Mount Elbrus, the tallest mountain in Europe, as you read this (he has a tripped planned for July). Milosev said the chance to “unplug” is what keeps him seeking new adventures. “It centers you. Life becomes very simple, it’s all about the next step.”