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Columbia Residential, Ventures CEO Noel Khalil dies at age 70

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Columbia Residential, Ventures CEO Noel Khalil dies at age 70

Noel Khalil, CEO of Columbia Residential and Columbia Ventures, died on Oct. 25 after a long battle with a severe illness. He was 70 years old. Photo submitted by Columbia Residential.

Atlanta, GA — Founder and CEO of Columbia Residential, Noel Khalil, died on Oct. 25 after a long battle with a severe illness. He was 70 years old.

Khalil was deeply loved as a leader, mentor, friend and the visionary and driving force behind Columbia Residential and Columbia Ventures in communities throughout Atlanta and the South, a press release states.

“Noel was always a really unique person,” Columbia Residential COO Jim Grauley told Decaturish. “He was incredibly generous. He was a visionary who inspired so many people to come to our company or get involved in this field.”

Grauley has worked at Columbia Residential for 14 years. Khalil put a lot of investment and trust into him and Grauley said that was a great honor because of the man Khalil was.

“What happens with Noel is you’re inspired by his vision, and inspired by who he is and what the mission is, so you work extremely hard to carry that forth and execute that vision,” Grauley said.

Aaron Swain, a partner in Columbia Residential and president of the property management company, said Khalil was a man of his word and deeply cared about his employees’ families.

“If he’s known for anything, it’ll be two things — known for our families and known for our employees. Caring about them unconditionally in a lot of ways,” Swain said. “That’s my takeaway from Noel. [He was] very, very caring.”

Swain added that he thinks Columbia Residential is the largest landlord of affordable housing in the metro Atlanta area. Khalil would say that if his mother would live in one of their units, then he was comfortable with the project.

“I think the quality of what we build is one landmark for sure,” Swain said. “I’ve worked for other firms in the past, and what we put into our properties quality-wise and construction-wise is second to none. Market rate, high end, you name it, we build to an extremely high market rate standard. Noel really stressed the importance of doing that.”

He described this as being the “Noel way.”

Khalil founded Columbia Residential and Columbia Ventures 30 years ago with the purpose of providing high-quality affordable housing in areas where people would be proud to live. He also lived in some of Columbia Residential’s developments throughout his life.

“That mission will continue, and his legacy will live on through every member of our team and the great communities that are created and sustained,” the press release says.

In DeKalb County, Columbia Residential has built, owned and managed about 2,000 affordable and mixed-income homes. In metro Atlanta, the company has built over 8,500 homes over the last 25 years, Grauley said. One of the most recent projects Columbia Residential completed is the Decatur Crossing senior affordable housing residence on Scott Boulevard near Decatur.

“Other things that Noel was really known for was an absolute commitment to quality of the product and design,” Grauley said. “Noel had a saying that we all resonate with, that says that he wants to be about building cathedrals for God’s children. Whether you were the lowest income senior or whether you were living in one of our market rate apartments, the expectation was you would have the same standard of quality of construction and healthy housing, and the same standard of attentiveness and property management.”

One of the first projects Khalil did was in Decatur and inspired the name of the company, which is named after Columbia Drive.

In the early 1990s, Khalil consulted on the project that was known as the Forest Hills apartments on Columbia Drive. About 15 years after the apartments were built, Columbia Residential acquired the property and built a new senior development on the site. The apartments are known called the Columbia Forest Hills apartments.

Other projects include senior housing on East Freeman Street near the Avondale MARTA station and a proposed senior affordable housing project on Sam Street.

Last year, Khalil was inducted in the Affordable Housing Hall of Fame for his career and lasting contribution to affordable housing within the multifamily industry.

Affordable Housing Finance magazine praised him as a groundbreaker, saying: “He has helped change the conversation regarding the importance of high-quality design and construction in affordable housing, and his developments have helped reimagine affordable and mixed-income communities in Atlanta, New Orleans, and many other communities.”

Funeral arrangements will be announced as they are finalized.

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