Nico’s Team Spotlights are a way for the community to get to know the people behind Nico a bit better. This interview shares Frank’s thoughts about what Nico does differently as a property manager, and how Nico will enable more people to participate in neighborhood ownership.
Name and role
Frank Melli, Vice President of Operations at Nico
What do you do at Nico?
I handle operations, which presently means overseeing the property management company, and basically making the trains run on time. It’s everything related to the way our properties operate, from maintenance to collecting rent to resident communications, which is managed directly by Nico – that’s the business we’ve been in and running for over a year and a half now.
What’s your background?
After college, I wanted to get into the social impact sphere so I worked in community development before going to law school. After practicing law for a few years, I moved back to LA and worked in real estate for five years before joining Nico.
What excites you about Nico?
Nico’s mission immediately grabbed me as something so simple and so important. Being in multi-family real estate for a number of years, we had been seeing the tensions around housing affordability and neighborhoods changing. I really believe that the best way we can fix things is at the local level.
The very simple idea of finding a way for people who can’t afford the insane single-family home prices that we’re currently seeing by having people participate in neighborhood ownership… it was just immediately compelling. I thought, “Oh, this is so needed.”
It became a no brainer to try it and join the team.
What makes Echo Park special?
The thing that I love most about Echo Park is that it somehow feels completely separate and a part of Los Angeles at the same time. It’s like a moment of repose but centered in and deeply connected to the greater city.
How has the changing housing market affected you? How has it affected your favorite neighborhoods?
It’s affected me personally in the sense that my wife and I have struggled for a while to overcome the feeling that we’re failing by not owning a house. We both grew up thinking that was the big benchmark of success in our adult lives.
How does Nico manage its properties differently to other property managers?
We’ve been very intentional about treating renters in a way more open and collaborative manner than you’re used to seeing, regardless of whether they choose to be shareholders in the REIT. For example, most owners will add amenities solely to attract new residents and increase the rent, whereas we just completed a major landscaping project with Terremoto and Greywater Corps that incorporated feedback from long-time building residents and resulted in featuring their pre-existing gardens.
There’s also things behind the scenes like trying to only use vendors that will adhere to our more stringent quality of life guidelines including reducing noise and work hours. It takes extra resources to fix things quickly and politely, and I’m really proud of the investment we’ve made there.
How do you see Nico positively impacting Echo Park?
The thing that’s most interesting to me is that the number of people investing in Nico Echo Park can be a quantitative measure of how many people care about Echo Park.
It is an investment product from which people can build wealth and equity but it’s also a chance for people to connect with each other. Being financial shareholders in Nico Echo Park is an opportunity for all of these neighbors to come together and acknowledge the community they’ve helped build.
What’s a favorite overlooked gem in Echo Park?
Dodger Stadium, upper deck, first row seats – these are some of the best seats to watch a game anywhere in the world and can be purchased an hour before first pitch for $15.