Owner, Volnay Capital and partner, V10 Development
Industry experience: 12 years
A single college course at Northeastern University got Ricky Beliveau hooked on real estate. By graduation, he already had a six-month plan to buy his first multifamily property. But it was always a side hustle until a series of condominium conversions in East Boston opened his eyes to the career’s potential. Six years later, he’s a partner with former Encore Boston Harbor head of government relations John Tocco in a company working to build the Sky Everett 21-story luxury apartment tower, a 230-unit apartment building next door called 128 Spring St. and 171-unit apartment building called The Cove overlooking the new Worcester Red Sox stadium.
Q: You started out as a multifamily investor. How did you get into development?
A: By 2013, the multifamily market had really started to accelerate. I really wanted to invest in East Boston and a lot of investment companies active there were, I felt, over-paying. From a cashflow perspective it didn’t make sense for me, but they were thinking about long-term value and now those properties are worth millions of dollars.
That opened my eyes to doing 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 multifamilies, gut-renovating them and selling them. I repeated that process on two more properties over the following year and that’s when I decided I would leave my finance job [at Wellington Management], and in 2016 moved into the development world full-time.
Q: So, you must have faced a learning curve jumping over to five-over-ones and 21-story towers.
A: When V10 was founded, the biggest project I’d worked on to date was 15 units. I was at a networking event with John B. Hynes III telling him about how I wanted to invest in Everett, He mentioned how a friend of his had just interviewed with 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 of entitling that – a five-over-one, 85 units. That was in early 2020 when the world felt rentals in the city could be ending and here we were, trying to finance this new apartment building. Fortunately, we were able to raise the equity and take out a great construction loan from Hingham Savings Bank and lock in a great price from Callahan Construction Managers as our [general contractor]. We’re on time and on budget and preparing to deliver.
For all our projects, it’s been fairly smooth. As far as the learning curve goes, on smaller projects, you can make decisions on the fly – moving a wall, for example. On the larger ones, you realize what’s on the plans gets built. That’s been the learning curve: digging into the plans and making sure the plans are very tight.
Q: What’s your strategy at V10?
A: We’re continuing to look for opportunities, mostly not in the Boston area but in the surrounding communities whether it’s Worcester or Everett or others. Really, it’s in communities that are excited for growth and for change. We feel like there are communities that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve for new housing or from a great developer. We’re looking to bring in developments that people are excited about.
If you look at the current political landscape and the [Boston Planning & Development Agency] in Boston, it’s a slow, slow grind to have projects move through the neighborhoods and the BPDA. There’s also a lot of anti-development feeling in the neighborhoods. In Worcester, where we have the [WooSox’s] outfield wall for The Cove, they were so excited for us to bring this project forward. Everett – same thing. You have a mayor who’s very pro-development and moving the old industrial uses out that are contaminating Everett and bringing in housing. We’re very excited to be a part of that transformation.
Q: In that vein, do you think the MBTA Communities rezoning could unlock opportunities?
A: That whole policy could really open a lot of opportunities for developers. There are a lot of unknowns about which communities are going to rezone and how. It’s something that we’ll have to keep a close eye on. But what we’re hearing is that these communities are looking for new housing, housing that’s affordable to everyday people. And by building more density you can build that missing middle-class housing.
Q: You have a big social media presence at Volnay – not something most developers are comfortable with. Who are you trying to reach with that?
A: It’s always been a part of our business. We were on Instagram and Facebook right when it started. I think we were one of the first companies sharing what we were doing on social media. A lot of my mentors thought I was crazy – “you’re giving away your trade secrets!” – but the number of opportunities and leads and relationships I’ve gained from social media have far outweighed any information my competitors have learned about me.
Our social media arm now has about 5 million followers. We have Kitchens of Instagram, Bathrooms of Instagram, @VolnayCapital and several others. Those first two are inspiration accounts where we share what we’re doing, as well as others’ work around the globe. People can also pay us to have their stuff posted. We also have large marketing contracts where we’re not only using these products in our developments because we like them, but featuring them on our pages, as well. If we’re taking paid advertising and all of our marketing, it’s bringing in about $300,000, $350,000.
If you look at the other young developers in the Boston area, you’ll see a lot of them are doing social media. When you’re putting yourself out there, whether it’s me or these other guys, you’re just letting people know you’re looking for opportunities.
Q: What’s next on your plate?
A: Our next project up is The Cove in Worcester. We just received our building permit and our hope is to start construction in September. We’re also working on unit layouts and engineering in Sky Tower and we hope to start that sometime in 2023. There’s a lot of work that goes into a tower like this. With Sky, we received a lot of offers to be co-[general partner], but we realized we needed to do a lot more engineering work to generate a set of plans that could be priced, so we’re working on that and we’ll be going back out to the market for a co-GP. For 128 Spring St., which is next to Sky, we already have our equity partners and hope to start that soon.
The Five Things that Make Beliveau, Beliveau
- Nantucket summers
- Thinking big
- Being bold
- “Network is your net worth”