Q&A: Former Irvine Company Apartment Division President Chris Marsh Launches Cherry Tree Capital Partners

Irvine Company, Cherry Tree Capital Partners, The Resort at Pelican Hill, Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Newport

By Catherine Sweeney 

After serving the Irvine Company’s Apartment Development Division for nearly a decade, Chris Marsh has announced plans to launch Cherry Tree Capital Partners, a multi family-focused real estate investment company. Through his years as President with the Orange County-based Irvine Company, Marsh was responsible for adding approximately 22,000 homes to the real estate investment firm’s multifamily portfolio, as well as the development of Newport’s 204-unit Resort at Pelican Hill. In total, Irvine Company’s multifamily portfolio consists of 65,000 homes in more than 125 communities across San Diego, Orange County, West Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Recently, The Registry had the chance to speak with Marsh and learn how these  past experiences will shape the future of Cherry Tree Capital Partners and how the company intends to move forward with the acquisition and development of multifamily assets in the future.   

Can you tell me a little bit about Cherry Tree Capital Partners and how it came to be? What is the company’s vision?   

A: Cherry Tree takes its name from the working class area I grew up in north west England. After 20 years of corporate life, it was time to scratch an entrepreneurial itch, hence the creation of Cherry Tree. Our vision is to ambitiously grow to be among the largest and finest operators of multi-family assets in the nation and to invest in those communities by contributing learning centers to help under-privileged kids gain access to education.

How will previous experiences at Irvine Company shape this new venture?   

A: My experiences at Irvine Company will shape Cherry Tree in several ways. Firstly, I have learned that the value of my own skills and attributes is best served when operating at scale. I find great fulfilment in hiring extremely bright people and creating an environment where they can grow. Hence, we have an appetite to grow Cherry Tree dramatically over the coming years. 

Secondly, I have learned that data-driven analytics combined with an intentional focus on the customer experience consistently produce great results. This high level of operational sophistication is what sets Cherry Tree apart from many operating platforms and sponsors.

Will the company be focusing on any specific markets? Which ones, and why?  

A: We will be opportunistic about the markets we look to establish a meaningful presence in, but are more generally focused on the Midwest for work-force housing and the sun-belt states for value-add opportunities.

What made you decide to hone in on affordable/workforce multifamily housing as opposed to other assets?  

A: I have an ambition to grow the company so as to be an operator of scale sufficient to ultimately vertically integrate day-to-day operations into the company while at the same time looking to actively preserve much-needed workforce housing. The Midwest is a geography that enjoys a high volume of transactions in this product type and the ability to scale quickly.  

Why is Cherry Tree Capital choosing to pursue ground-up developments in California as opposed to multifamily acquisitions in the Sun Belt and Midwest regions?  

A: I have always believed development to be an essentially local business, and while I do feel we have exportable skill sets, we will be initially focused on ground-up development opportunities within California and the adjacent states in the west.

How does Cherry Tree Capital aim to set itself apart? What unique investment strategies will the company employ?  

A: Operational sophistication, customer-experience focus and the considerable collective experience of this launch team set us apart. Cradle-to-grave asset management capabilities and the deployment of learning centers within our communities are unique strategies that will help leverage our considerable industry contacts and experience to provide value for both investors and residents.

Can you tell me more about the company’s philanthropic endeavors? 

A: My ambition in creating Cherry Tree is to ultimately create a legacy of giving for my family that is inspired by educating children who do not have the opportunities that more privileged families can provide. Access to higher education was something that despite my working-class roots I had in England at that time and which ultimately changed the trajectory of my life. I can think of few better ways to help young kids fulfil their potential than creating meaningful pathways to education. This will be accomplished at the community level by creating and curating learning centers and at the longer-term legacy level by Cherry Tree proceeds helping to sustain long-term giving to this cause.

Looking ahead, what goals does Cherry Tree Capital Partners have for the first year? Five years down the line? 

A: We are ambitious to grow from 1,000 units under management in our first year to 10,000 units by year five.