When Richard Nuckols moved to Richmond in 1977, he introduced the city to a novel real estate concept: converting apartments to condominiums.
“I had done a small condo conversion in Greensboro, N.C., but nobody had done one in Richmond,” Nuckols said.
Nuckols, who began his real estate career in 1967 selling resort property while he was still a college student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, had worked in Greensboro for Virginia Landmark Corp. for a couple of years before transferring to the company’s Richmond office.
He was scouting for a path out of sales and into development, and condo conversions seemed like it might be a good strategy.
By the mid-1970s, a few new condominium developments had popped up in Greater Richmond, but Richmonders were slow to embrace the condo concept. (Each condo is privately owned, but ownership of the development’s common areas is collectively shared by the condo owners.)
Nuckols was undaunted. For his first condo conversion in Richmond, he chose Ingleside Court (1916) at 603-605 North Davis Avenue, an architecturally significant apartment building designed in the Tudor Revival style by Otis Asbury.
Richmond hasn’t always been known for embracing new ideas, but the Ingleside Court project proved to be a hit.
“I became the guy who converts apartments to condos,” Nuckols said. “I converted 800 to 900 apartments.”
Mount Vernon, which sprawls from Patterson Avenue to Grove Avenue along the Downtown Expressway’s western edge, and The Chalet, located at the intersection of Patterson and Maple avenues, were among his most prominent condo conversion projects.
“Richard brought a concept that was definitely needed in Richmond, and he did enough of them that it took hold,” said Chris Small, a real estate broker and president of Small & Associates.
Small worked with Nuckols on several condo conversion projects, including the Fountain Lake condos at 501-507 South Davis Avenue.
Nuckols had bigger ambitions than dominating the condo conversion market. He left Virginia Landmark in 1984 to create Realty Ventures Group Inc., which focuses primarily on residential community development. Herbert Fitzgerald, one of Nuckols’s coworkers at Virginia Landmark, joined him at the new company and became a full partner in 1986.
Together, Nuckols and Fitzgerald began developing communities with single-family homes, and they wound down the company’s condo conversion projects in the late 1980s.
“From my point of view, I converted all the apartments I thought were ripe for conversion, so I left that part of the business,” Nuckols said.
In the course of more than three decades, Nuckols and Fitzgerald have developed approximately 24 single-family subdivisions, as well as two new apartment complexes and an office building.
“Most of our communities have been infill sites,” Nuckols said. “If people are living around the site, you’ve already proven there’s a market there.”
Subdivision standouts include Walton Lake in Chesterfield County, Rivergate in Goochland County, Summerwalk in Hanover County and Blueberry Hill and Royal Oaks in Henrico County.
“We work together on site selection and the design for each community,” Fitzgerald said. “I have typically handled land development, and Richard handles sales and marketing. But we each chip in all aspects of our projects.”
Currently, Realty Ventures Group is in the final phases of work on the Tarrington on the James community in northwestern Chesterfield, as well as the Tilman’s Farm development in Powhatan County.
A third community, Swift Creek Station in Chesterfield, is being rezoned for mixed-use. It will have nearly 800 homes, including single-family homes, duplexes, condos and townhomes.
The quality of the design and the attention to details like the community’s entrance and its landscape distinguish Nuckols and Fitzgerald’s developments, says Thomas Gancsos, who has built homes in Realty Ventures Group’s developments since 1999.
“From a builder’s standpoint, what’s important is the care and attention given to the neighborhood,” said Gancsos, owner of Thomas Homes. “I want to work with a developer who is committed on that level, and not just to selling lots. You know when you’re in one of Richard and Herbert’s communities because they have a quality you can see from the moment you drive in.”
Richmond has changed since Nuckols moved to the city 42 years ago.
“Back then, if you drove west of Parham Road, you were in danger of falling off the Earth,” Nuckols said, with a laugh.
He has survived two national economic events that had devastating impacts on the real estate profession – the S & L crisis in the 1980s and 1990s and the Great Recession that began in 2008. And he laments the tangle of rules and regulations that developers face today, as well as the dwindling number of infill lots that have served as his company’s blank slates for development.
But his greatest professional pleasures haven’t dwindled, Nuckols said: “Watching an idea come to life and being Herbert’s partner for 35 years.”
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