Insurance and Education & Workforce Development

Wright Development LLC: Providing the missing piece Development company aims to recreate neighborhoods

April 23, 2007

"Our goal is to re-create neighborhoods and make them viable, thriving, desirable places to live," she said. "That's usually left to the city, the not-for-profits and the [community development corporations]. We feel like there's been a component missing."

The omitted piece of the puzzle: private developers. That's why for four years, Wright Development has been buying old and often-decaying homes in neighborhoods such as Holy Cross and Arsenal Heights.

The company hires a contractor-for the past year it's been Chris Keller's Keller 2 Construction-to raise the roofs and update the houses with high-end amenities like granite counters, cherry cabinets and hardwood floors.

Most homes resell for $180,000 to $300,000.

"She's investing in the neighborhoods," said Stacy Henle, president of the Arsenal Heights Neighborhood Association.

"When she has issues, she'll make the neighborhood aware of it. ... She sets a positive precedent for business owners to work with neighborhoods to solve problems and make them a better place."

Wright grew up in a family of builders-her father was a trim carpenter and framer-and she went to Purdue University with thoughts of getting into high-end commercial design. She found her passion, though, working for a community development corporation that rebuilt neighborhoods.

In 2003, she started her company as New Again Properties with $200,000 borrowed from a private lender and a two-page summary of her company's goals. She advises other entrepreneurs to do things differently.

The business plan "was not as well thought out as it should have been," Wright said, so she went through a program at the Neighborhood Self-Employment Initiative, which helped her focus on her goals.

As for the money, well, it wasn't as much as it should have been.

"Be properly capitalized," she advised. "So many small-business owners go in on a shoestring. I don't think most people go through a detailed analysis of how much it is going to cost to keep [their] doors open.

"You really need to understand how your cash flows, and start out capitalized. Even if you're borrowing money that is at an interest rate that on a personal level you would never consider, what you have to consider is, 'I can pay a higher interest to borrow money to make money, or I can not make money.'"

Over the years, she's learned a lot about obtaining private financing from 401(k) plans, self-directed IRAs, private investors and insurance companies. That brings up another of her suggestions: Teach yourself what you don't know.

"I'm a huge advocate of self-education," she said. "Most people go into business being really good at baking pies or doing whatever it is that they do, but they don't learn how to be a good business owner. And that's key."

Wright said it's important to believe in what you do, and she clearly supports her mission: She and her air-traffic-controller husband moved from the Eagle Creek area to Holy Cross in February 2005.

Two months later, Steve Carr and his wife found their Holy Cross home when they stopped at one of Wright's open houses after having Easter brunch downtown.

"It's a beautiful home; Peggy does great work," Carr said. "But just as importantly, the Holy Cross neighborhood is a great neighborhood. People really look out for each other, and you know your neighbors."

Wright Development is among a handful of developers working in Holy Cross and Arsenal Heights. But having competition "is not a negative," Wright said, because it means more people are marketing to potential buyers, and additional redevelopment creates the "visible impact" of a changing, revitalized area.

Now, Wright said, she's being courted by banks eager to lend her money. Her goal: Establish a $3 million to $4 million line of credit for acquisition and renovation.

"We would like to get to the point," she said, "where we're buying 100 properties at a time."
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