eveloper Mickey Garcia has a vision for making old things new again, and his handiwork is evident throughout Hampton Roads in Norfolk's Ghent and aide Towne Portsmouth. Most recently, he has envisioned the rebirth of downtown Suffolk's historic College Court district. Garcia's keen vision is responsible for much of the city's renaissance.
After attending the State University of West Georgia, he and his wife, Kelli, moved to Hampton Roads to be close to her family in 1996. When Garcia began developing investment properties for an associate in the area, he soon discovered a growing demand for restored homes.
"I agreed to restore five houses, and the first one was a huge house in aide Towne Portsmouth. After we restored the house, it became the highest priced house ever sold in aide Towne at that time. The sale price was $430,000."
Garcia began restoring more historic homes in the area. "I really enjoyed historic restoration," Garcia said. "We bought in historic areas, such as the Ghent section of Norfolk. aide Towne Portsmouth really put us on the map. We took properties that were 120 years old and made them look brand new again. That's what got me hooked."
Garcia started looking for additional development opportunities in the area, and he found College Court in Suffolk's historic downtown district. "I went there and started doing my research, riding the streets, pounding the pavement," Garcia said. "People who aren't familiar with this area think that Suffolk is at the edge of the world," Garcia said. "Once I came out here and got a feel for it, I realized that this is the future of Hampton Roads."
Garcia is not only adept at property development, he is also a Class A contractor. "There are three aspects to our business: acquisition, construction and sales. Construction is the hardest part:' Garcia noted.
Garcia is pursuing his passion with increasing fervor. "We're always looking," he said. "We're restoring a huge residential house at 302 Bank Street, with 6,500 square feet, six bedrooms, four-and-a-half bathrooms, a full basement, and four heating and air conditioning
systems on an extremely large lot. If somebody comes in to buy it before we finish, we can customize it to fit their needs."
Garcia Development is also restoring the Holland Beamon warehouse, which had been a farm supply store. "They carried coal, flour, grain and seed, anything you wanted that had to do with farming:' Garcia said. "It was built in the late 1800s, with the office in the front and the warehouse in the back. After Holland Beamon went out of business, [local retired attorney and former city council representative] Tom Woodward Jr:s dad bought it and converted it to a manufacturing plant for popcorn poppers. Another part of the building was converted and used for a dry cleaners and a men's clothing store." Garcia envisions turning the building into spacious apartments close to the downtown business district and including all of the modern amenities.
Garcia sometimes faces difficulties with historical societies, but not in Suffolk. "Suffolk has welcomed me like no other city:' Garcia said.
The Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society has been especially supportive. "Sue Woodward, Betsy Brothers and Barbara McPhail are the backbone in Suffolk," Garcia said. "Those three ladies carry the torch. They are the reason downtown has become what it is."
Downtown Development Director Elizabeth McCoury appreciates all of the things Garcia is doing in the historic downtown district. "Mickey's turning around neighborhoods, transforming once dilapidated structures into revitalized historic properties that are great places to live and work:' she said.
Today, Garcia enjoys life in Suffolk. He and his family live in a historic house built in 1895 and located on South Broad Street. "I chose to live here:' Garcia said. "I like the place. It's kind of a big city vibe with a small town culture. At the same time you can tell that it's happening. There's a buzz in the air."
That buzz in the air is likely the sound of Garcia's crew restoring another Suffolk landmark.