Case Studies

Chuck Pagnotta – The Briad Group 

Setting up hotel builder for ‘suite’ success 

Builders in the hospitality industry face various challenges that can impact the success of their projects. Ensuring regulatory compliance, as builders need to navigate local, state, and federal regulations about zoning, building codes, safety standards and environmental regulations is crucial. Cost management is also important, as hospitality projects require significant investments.  

Meeting deadlines and finding and retaining skilled labor is another significant obstacle, but The Briad Group has someone in place to face these challenges with gusto and determination.   

Chuck Pagnotta serves as the company’s senior vice president of construction and design, meaning he is at the forefront of every project the company has undertaken for over 20 years. Under his leadership, Pagnotta has helped New Jersey-based Briad construct and maintain over $1 billion in developments.  

“Running the day-to-day business comes with its challenges. Creating a detailed master plan–where you prepare for months to years ahead—is crucial. It is important to stay ahead of today,” Pagnotta tells Blueprint during an interview in March. “I have learned that the unexpected can happen, so preparation has taken on a whole new meaning.” 

When Pagnotta first spoke to Blueprint in November 2020, he was helping Briad navigate the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was still in its early stages. Since then, Briad Group has built and opened 40 ground-up hotels, over 100 restaurants, a multi-building lifestyle center and hundreds of property renovations from coast to coast.  

Breaking ground 

Primarily focused on the hospitality industry, franchising both Marriott and Hilton branded hotels, The Briad Group has seen steady growth since its inception. Recently, the company has adapted and strategically pivoted back to its original business model of building hotels from start to finish in a 12-month timeframe. Going back to their roots, this strategy has helped Briad combat the economics post-COVID, including cost increases, material shortages and high interest rates.  

“Plus, our strong, longstanding relationships with subcontractors have been crucial to the success of recent developments,” Pagnotta tells Blueprint during an interview in April.  

Most recently, opening the newly built AC Hotel by Marriott in downtown San Diego, Pagnotta and his team successfully constructed the project during the pandemic. Located in the popular Gaslamp district, the hotel opened its doors to guests in 2023 and recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.  

In early September 2023, Pagnotta and his team broke ground on Briad’s Marriott Residence Inn project in Ocean, New Jersey, which is set to open in July. They are also working on two new developments: an Element Hotel in West Windsor, New Jersey, right outside Princeton University, and a Homewood Suites by Hilton in Cheshire, Connecticut. The ground-up projects have not started yet; they are in for permitting. Currently, the company is completing a 125-guestroom hotel renovation in New York, with additional hotel properties in design for their upcoming renovations. 

“The San Diego project is an anomaly because we want to manage properties within our geographic region,” Pagnotta explains. “We owned the property, and the location was ideal for developing our new AC Hotel & Techo Beso Rooftop pool and bar.” 

Site selection 

Throughout his career, Pagnotta has witnessed the evolution of construction timelines, from projects taking 11 to 12 months 20 years ago to extending to 24 months during the challenges of the pandemic. Now, the typical build takes around 18 months for projects that include site improvements  

“Building quickly is crucial because of the increase in costs the longer a project takes,” Pagnotta explains. “But you also don’t want to rush through the work. Attention to detail and maintaining the highest level of quality supersedes all else.” 

Pagnotta’s success in meeting aggressive construction schedules stems from his emphasis on effective management, constant communication, and relationship-building within the industry. He stresses the significance of driving the schedule daily and ensuring all stakeholders are aligned on expectations from the onset. By leveraging his extensive network and experience, he has cultivated strong partnerships with trades and suppliers, allowing for smoother project execution. 

 “Creating a logical and detailed plan is the first step. Leveraging our relationships to convince all of our trades to buy into the plan was crucial to the success of the project,” Pagnotta says.  

Despite the hurdles posed by the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the construction industry, Pagnotta remains optimistic about the future.  

“We are seeing an increase in the influence technology is playing on the construction industry, and there are some benefits to using AI and other digital tools to streamline workflows and enhance productivity,” Pagnotta says.  

Pagnotta anticipates further integrating AI technologies into the construction sector, recognizing the potential for continued building design and project management advancements. 

The Briad Group is very selective in the properties it chooses—and the hotels it opts to build. It works exclusively with Marriott and Hilton brands and constructs properties that cater to business and family travelers.  

“Extended-stay properties are becoming more attractive to people traveling with kids,” he says. 

Building a career 

It might sound like a cliché to say that Pagnotta was born into the construction business, but his family owned and operated their own development and general contracting business. Pagnotta was on his first construction site when he was just 5 years old. A few years later, he was sneaking up on roofs and trying to do as much as possible to work with is hands and learn the tools of the trade.  

“When I was younger, you’d shake hands with someone, move forward with the project and honor the handshake agreement,” Pagnotta recalls. “Today, lawyers are involved throughout the process and more layers and paperwork.” 

Aside from the use of attorneys, technology is another big change in the industry from when he started. When Pagnotta got into the industry, he did everything by hand: drawings, communications, plans, payments. There were no computers and no cellular phones.  

“Now we walk around with all this technology in our hands. It has been a huge benefit, but it also can slow production because of the distractions a cell phone or tablet can provide,” Pagnotta says.  

Pagnotta says that on a construction site, having access to every document just by pressing a button on a device is game-changing. All Briad on-site superintendents have iPads and can access hundreds of drawings, agreements, schedules and more in an instant.  

“The last four years have changed the way we conduct our business. While preparing for the typical challenges ahead, we must be ready for the unexpected. Whether we expand our markets or the types of asset classes we develop, we will continue to believe in our staff and business partners to help lead us to successful growth,” Pagnotta says. 

 

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