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Urban Pacific Builder, Scott Choppin follows the road to infill.

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Duncan Osborne distinctly remembers the chats he used to have with Scott Choppin when the future managing partner of Urban Pacific Builders was a student at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. Over the summer, Choppin would do maintenance work on Osborne's properties and talk about how he wanted to be in the real estate business. Osborne, an independent apartment owner in San Luis Obispo, took it with a grain of salt. After all, how often do school-age dreams become grown-up reality?

"We all thought we knew what we were going to do when we were in college," Osborne says. "Lots of people have ideas. Some of them get followed through on and some don't."

Choppin, now 38, was one of those who did follow through on his dreams. He charted a course in real estate and meticulously stuck to his plan. After graduating from school, he hounded Los Angeles-based Kaufman and Broad (which eventually became KB Home) until he got a job there. There, he mastered tax credit financing. He wanted to move into the market-rate sector, so he took a job with Sares-Regis Group in Irvine, Calif., to do land acquisition.

After a year at Sares-Regis, he found even more challenges. "I figured that the biggest thing I was missing was getting out there and raising money in the capital markets," he recalls. "I needed to raise equity for deals and get myself financed by the banks. A little less than a year after I went to Sares-Regis, I decided it was time for me to start my own company."

He didn't set out to start just any old company, though. "Our full intent was to pursue urban infill and downtown core, mixed-use, and high-density residential," Choppin says. "That excited me. I like the energy of city and urban infill. I'm a Generation Xer. It was from a personal knowledge that I thought people would be attracted to that product."

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At first, though, he had trouble selling this plan to institutions. But the New Urbanism movement and some successful products helped out–and so did his ability to take on difficult projects. "He's unique," says William Jenkins, a principal with the Laramie Co., a broker in Denver. "He takes on hard projects–ones that take a lot more time and you just can't slap up."

Choppin, who mainly builds condos, is most proud of the 89-unit Bank Lofts at San Pedro that helped rejuvenate a rundown area of San Pedro, Calif., and Axis, a 750-unit project that's under development in Westminster, Calif. Jenkins sold the site to Choppin.

"When I assessed the site with Scott, I knew it had challenges," Jenkins says. "But when we got into it, it had more challenges. He's patient, persistent, and thorough in attacking a site. What you'll get at the end of the day is a unique product."

This relentless determination is the reason Osborne sees his one-time employee growing his business to even bigger heights. "The sky is the limit," he says. "He has the attitude and savvy to make Urban Pacific another KB Home."

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