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COVID-19’s Impact on Real Estate, Brewing Plans in Virginia’s Gateway Region

In October, Petersburg-based real estate developer and entrepreneur Dave McCormack joined a webinar panel hosted by Virginia Community Capital (VCC) and the Virginia Economic Development Association (VEDA), titled “Rebuild & Reimagine: COVID-19’s Impact on Plans for New Real Estate Development.”

Some background on Dave McCormack

Throughout his experience as an entrepreneur in multi-family, office and industrial real estate as well as the brewing industry, he’s recognized the nearly universal struggles of small-town America through the lens of economic development, identity and population. He established his successful real estate group in Old Towne Petersburg, Waukeshaw Development, in an effort to initiate change within Virginia’s Gateway Region and its surrounding areas in the Commonwealth, and into North Carolina.

He works with communities in both states to revitalize forgotten treasures, such as launching two brewery brands — one being Trapezium Brewing Co. in the City of Petersburg; he also established Demolition Coffee, which is a popular café destination in Old Towne as well as hundreds of apartments throughout the Old Dominion.

Dave’s real estate group achieves its objectives through focusing on the attraction of traditional bank financing in addition to seeking out grants and other incentives when they are available. Waukeshaw also works with a team of expert architects, certified public accountants, legal professionals and consultants to syndicate historic tax credits from federal and state governments.

Full Steam Ahead

“Oddly enough, and it feels crazy to even be saying this in October, but I think it speaks volumes about the team we have, the relationships we’ve formed and some of the businesses we’ve built — we’re actually having a bizarrely tremendous year,” Dave said. “We’re the beneficiaries of those relationships we’ve formed and the businesses we’ve built, and I’m really happy to be in some of the small progressive towns that we’re in — we’re having a great year.”

Dave went on to say that the current occupancy levels at some of Waukeshaw’s apartment projects are as high as they’ve ever been and that their rents are climbing some; on the brewery side, he believes his companies are huge beneficiaries of their outdoor spaces as well as their ability to have pivoted in face of some of the adversity society has seen.

“Generally speaking, I would say we’re in a good spot right now … ” Dave points out, explaining how “ … we are very cautious right now about what’s going to happen over the winter when people begin to use their inside spaces more often, but at the end of the day, we found ourselves in a surprising place here towards the end of October 2020.”

Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic time-span, Dave and his team have had to pivot and make key decisions in order to be successful and stay on path.

On the brewing/retail side of things, he mentioned that his team made a point of getting way ahead of the virus itself and pandemic-proofing the businesses, such as equipping them with personal protective equipment and reorganizing the layout to meet social distancing guidelines.

“At first, I would really say it was jarring to our customers, but we made sure to do it early and display our efforts to implement those guidelines publicly, and that helped to create consistency and it took confusion out of the programming for our customers.”

Moving over to the housing/apartment side of Dave’s entrepreneurship, he explained that Waukeshaw has spent many years building up the credit worthiness of their clientele — they have hundreds among hundreds of apartments, and he emphasized how they were expecting waves of evictions and lots of problems.

“The crazy part about it is that I think all of that hard work and the building of that business really paid off because we had almost no evictions and nearly zero vacancies,” Dave explains. “So, it’s time like this when you know you’ve done a good job, building up to it. Our banking relationships have been very helpful also — we made a decision years ago to work with specific banks which aren’t necessarily big players, and it’s all paying off.”

Dave was asked by the moderator if or how construction has been impacted by the pandemic, and he said the price of building materials have climbed.

“No one would have predicted that the housing market would take off in the middle of a pandemic with prices sky-rocketing, but that’s what we’ve seen — we have several projects in development right now, and for a couple of those, we’re seeing lumber prices climbing,” he highlights

“I know it seems like the effects of the pandemic feel like it’s taking forever, but I strongly believe things are going to get better into 2021 at some point, so we’re real upbeat on the market for both the brewery and real estate sides of business and we’re moving full speed ahead.”