Owner, Volnay Capital and Partner, V10 Development
Industrial experience: 12 years
Just one college course at Northeastern University got Ricky Beliveau hooked on real estate. When he graduated, he already had a six-month plan to buy his first multi-family property. But it was still a side hustle until a string of condominium conversions in East Boston opened his eyes to career potential. Six years later, he partnered with former Encore Boston Harbor government relations manager John Tocco in a company working on the construction of the 21-story Sky Everett luxury apartment tower, a building next door to 230 apartments called 128 Spring St. and 171- apartment building called The Cove overlooking the new Worcester Red Sox stadium.
Q: You started out as a multi-family investor. How did you get into development?
A: By 2013, the multifamily market had really started to pick up speed. I really wanted to invest in East Boston and many investment companies operating there were, in my opinion, paying too much. From a cash flow perspective it didn’t make sense to me, but they were thinking about long term value and now these properties are worth millions of dollars.
This opened my eyes to condo conversions. I saw an opportunity to do what a lot of people were doing in Southie, but bring it to Eastie by buying small multi-family homes, renovating them and selling them. I repeated this process on two other properties over the next year and that’s when I decided to quit my job in finance. [at Wellington Management]and in 2016 I joined the development world full time.
Q: So you had to face a learning curve jumping to five-story and 21-story towers.
A: When V10 was founded, the biggest project I had worked on to date was 15 units. I was at a networking event with John B. Hynes III explaining to him how I wanted to invest in Everett. He mentioned that a friend of his had just interviewed him, John Tocco, who was looking to join a development company or start one. and suggested we get in touch.
We didn’t have a company or a brand or anything. We found our first property, where The 600 is now on Broadway [in Everett] and we went through the process to qualify for that – a five out of one, 85 units. It was early 2020 when the world felt the rentals in the city might end and there we were, trying to fund this new building. Luckily we were able to raise equity and take out a great building loan from Hingham Savings Bank and get a great price from Callahan Construction Managers because our [general contractor]. We are on time and on budget and ready to deliver.
For all our projects, it went pretty well. As for the learning curve, on smaller projects you can make decisions on the fly – moving a wall, for example. On the bigger ones, you realize that what’s on the plans is built. That’s been the learning curve: digging into the plans and making sure the plans are very tight.
Q: What is your strategy at V10?
A: We continue to look for opportunities, primarily not in the Boston area, but in the surrounding communities, whether it’s Worcester or Everett or whatever. Really, it’s in the communities that are excited about growth and change. We feel like there are communities that haven’t received the attention they deserve for new housing or from a major developer. We seek to bring developments that excite people.
If you look at the current political landscape and the [Boston Planning & Development Agency] in Boston, it is very slow to advance projects in the neighborhoods and the BPDA. There is also a lot of anti-development sentiment in the neighborhoods. In Worcester, where we have the [WooSox’s] exterior wall for The Cove, they were so excited for us to move this project forward. Everett – same thing. You have a mayor who is very pro-development and moving old industrial uses that are contaminating Everett and creating housing. We are very happy to be part of this transformation.
Q: In that vein, do you think the rezoning of MBTA communities could open up opportunities?
A: This whole policy could really open up a lot of opportunities for developers. There are many unknowns about which communities will change areas and how. This is something we will have to watch closely. But what we hear is that these communities are looking for new housing, affordable housing for ordinary people. And by building more density, you can build that missing middle-class housing.
Q: You have a big social media presence in Volnay, which is not something most developers are comfortable with. Who are you trying to reach with this?
A: It has always been part of our business. We were on Instagram and Facebook from the start. I think we were one of the first companies to share what we were doing on social media. Many of my mentors thought I was crazy – “you’re leaking your trade secrets!” – but the number of opportunities, leads, and connections I gained through social media far exceeded any information my competitors learned about me.
Our social media arm now has around 5 million followers. We have Instagram kitchens, Instagram bathrooms, @VolnayCapital and many others. These first two are inspirational accounts where we share what we do, as well as the work of others around the world. People can also pay us to have their stuff posted. We also have major marketing deals where we not only use these products in our developments because we love them, but we also feature them on our pages. If we take paid advertising and all of our marketing, that’s about $300,000, $350,000.
If you look at other young developers in the Boston area, you’ll see that a lot of them use social media. When you put yourself forward, whether it’s me or those other guys, you’re just letting people know that you’re looking for opportunities.
Q: What’s next on your plate?
A: Our next project is The Cove in Worcester. We have just received our building permit and hope to start construction in September. We are also working on the layout and engineering of the units in the Sky Tower and we hope to start this in 2023. There is a lot of work in a tower like this. With Sky, we received many offers to be co-[general partner], but we realized we needed to do a lot more engineering work to generate a set of blueprints that could be priced, so we’re working on that and going back to market for a co-GP. For 128 Spring St., which is next to Sky, we already have our funding partners and hope to start soon.
The five things that make Béliveau, Béliveau
- Nantucket Summers
- think big
- be bold
- “The network is your net worth”