Louis Salomonsky, prolific and controversial local developer, dead at 84

louis salomonsky

Louis Salomonsky (BizSense file photo)

Louis Salomonsky, a titan of the Richmond real estate development scene, died Thursday morning at age 84 after a battle with cancer.

He is survived by his wife Anita, children Stephen, Mark, Ben, Daniel, Betsy, Louie and Anita, and 10 grandchildren.

Starting out as an architect, the native Richmonder and UVA alum became a prolific, trailblazing developer. He and his business partner David White were some of the first in the region to see the promise of using historic tax credits to rehab the city’s old buildings into new uses.

With White and their firm Historic Housing LLC and sister companies SWA Architects, SWA Construction and Main Street Realty, Salomonsky developed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects and thousands of apartments across Richmond and elsewhere, most prominently in and around Scott’s Addition, Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom, where the companies are based.

Salomonsky also was a controversial figure, known for his high-profile legal troubles in the early 2000s, when he pleaded guilty to federal charges and served two years in prison in a bribery scandal involving former City Councilwoman Gwen Hedgepeth.

Since his release from prison in 2005, his work in the region has been constant, with projects in planning and under construction even up to his death this week.

His 12-story apartment tower at the former Weiman’s Bakery property in Shockoe Bottom is under construction to become the neighborhood’s tallest building.

Finishing touches on the last commercial spaces at The Icon, a redevelopment of the former Quality Inn & Suites property at 3200 W. Broad St. in Scott’s Addition, are underway.

And in the past 12 months he began planning a high-rise residential tower at the southwest corner of Gaskins Road and Patterson Avenue, not far from his home in western Henrico County, as well as an addition to the Bacon Retirement Community in the Church Hill area.

He also in recent years served as vice rector and a member of the board of Virginia State University and taught classes in the University of Virginia School of Architecture.

Details for funeral arrangements were not available Friday afternoon.

This is breaking news. Stay tuned to BizSense next week for more details.

louis salomonsky

Louis Salomonsky (BizSense file photo)

Louis Salomonsky, a titan of the Richmond real estate development scene, died Thursday morning at age 84 after a battle with cancer.

He is survived by his wife Anita, children Stephen, Mark, Ben, Daniel, Betsy, Louie and Anita, and 10 grandchildren.

Starting out as an architect, the native Richmonder and UVA alum became a prolific, trailblazing developer. He and his business partner David White were some of the first in the region to see the promise of using historic tax credits to rehab the city’s old buildings into new uses.

With White and their firm Historic Housing LLC and sister companies SWA Architects, SWA Construction and Main Street Realty, Salomonsky developed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects and thousands of apartments across Richmond and elsewhere, most prominently in and around Scott’s Addition, Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom, where the companies are based.

Salomonsky also was a controversial figure, known for his high-profile legal troubles in the early 2000s, when he pleaded guilty to federal charges and served two years in prison in a bribery scandal involving former City Councilwoman Gwen Hedgepeth.

Since his release from prison in 2005, his work in the region has been constant, with projects in planning and under construction even up to his death this week.

His 12-story apartment tower at the former Weiman’s Bakery property in Shockoe Bottom is under construction to become the neighborhood’s tallest building.

Finishing touches on the last commercial spaces at The Icon, a redevelopment of the former Quality Inn & Suites property at 3200 W. Broad St. in Scott’s Addition, are underway.

And in the past 12 months he began planning a high-rise residential tower at the southwest corner of Gaskins Road and Patterson Avenue, not far from his home in western Henrico County, as well as an addition to the Bacon Retirement Community in the Church Hill area.

He also in recent years served as vice rector and a member of the board of Virginia State University and taught classes in the University of Virginia School of Architecture.

Details for funeral arrangements were not available Friday afternoon.

This is breaking news. Stay tuned to BizSense next week for more details.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
9 months ago

Louis will be missed. His stories were legend, especially those of his days in Nice. He was the first to do many things in local development and he occasionally stretched the rules but you can’t deny the man’s adventuresome and entrepreneurship. He was running full speed almost to the end.

Dr. Abe Gomez
Dr. Abe Gomez
9 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Did he ever write those stories down? I’d love to read/hear them (for entertainment purposes of course). A quick google searched netted me nothing. Thanks!

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Abe Gomez

You want his jailhouse stories or his Richmond elite society stories?

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Both!

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
9 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Abe Gomez

Not that I’m aware. Like most of us, recounting our youth, much of the story probably came more from imagination than memory. But that’s part of what makes us old guys special isn’t it?

More to the point, cancer has taken another person down. It’s a terrible and painful enemy and it must be defeated through costly research and clinical trials. There are still tables to fill and sponsorships available at the upcoming American Cancer Society’s Cattle Barons Ball October 21. I’m a sponsor/ambassador and will help others willing to step forward. I can be reached at [email protected].

Boz Boschen
Boz Boschen
9 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Stretched the rules = awarded the maximum sentence allowed by law

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
9 months ago

The headline should read “prolific thief and extortionist who got to buy his way back into the development world”. The fact that Bruce has anything to say about a known convicted thief says a lot about character. Bye Louis, good riddance, we don’t need the corruption in local politics nor development.

Leroy Crenshaw
Leroy Crenshaw
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Classy

Daniil Kleyman
Daniil Kleyman
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Oh look everyone. It’s “Ashley Smith” who literally has something to say about every single article here and it’s usually complete non-sense. How about you let at least the body cool off before you start dancing on the grave? I will bet my bottom dollar whatever you know about Louis comes from 4th hand knowledge from some article you googled. There was much more to the man than that.

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Daniil Kleyman

Oh look, it’s Daniil, one of those awesome real estate investors. Thanks for making our cost of living outrageous and for putting me in my place as just a peon homeowner in the City. Want to buy my house? For you, $1 trillion.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Cost of living is still cheap in Richmond; below the national average. The angry locals in the once abandoned rust-belt city I am from ALSO grumble about all the people renovating and infill and re-developing and generally making the city better, and home prices there are still cheap (probably partially because RE taxes are SKY-HIGH while services suck) — but haters gonna hate and complainers gonna complain… the real estate investors are the ones that create the homes and they can’t do that unless there is demand from the types of people who can afford to pay enough to make… Read more »

Justin Reynolds
Justin Reynolds
9 months ago
Reply to  Daniil Kleyman

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Once someone serves their time, it’s best to let the past be the past. Louis accomplished a lot as a developer and his bending of the rules helped us create stronger guidelines going forward. Big picture, if you can’t say something nice about a person, it’s best left unsaid.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago

Well, I disagree with the last part — what if he was a murderer or hurt kids? But I often take your first point and try to point out that many people who are great in some ways have committed crimes, and many people are pretty much just criminals with no greatness, but still have normal human qualities. Funny how those who loudly say that a person shouldn’t be defined by mistakes are quick to jump to attack someone they are chauvinisticly predisposed to find fault with. I just hope this guy actually paid his debt to society for violating… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Daniil Kleyman

HEY! That’s ME you are talking about!

Jamie Ficor
Jamie Ficor
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Not to worry Ashley; I’ll make sure your family only includes all that you did wrong in life in your obituary.

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Jamie Ficor

Awesome, thanks Jamie. Make sure it includes “advocated for ethics and morals in the community”, since apparently that’s so wrong in the Good Ol Boys of RVA Club.

Wade Barrow
Wade Barrow
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

Some believe that, when we pass from this life, we go to answer for our conduct. Before our Maker? Eventually. But first, we must face Ashley Smith in the comment section of RBS. There, for all to hear, she will render her judgment. Sure, it will be wildly uninformed, incomplete in almost every imaginable sense, unfair, ill-considered, distasteful in the extreme and frankly, predictable and dull. But none of that is the point. The object of this pitiful exercise will be to make Ashley feel good. No concern whatever will be given to the grieving loved ones of the deceased,… Read more »

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
9 months ago
Reply to  Wade Barrow

Stop being mean.

Peter James
Peter James
9 months ago

Perhaps you might consider offering the same advice to Ashley? Just raising the question…

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

I will second this, maybe she should tell both parties to stop being mean?

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Wade Barrow

I think Ashley should have a voice, and be willing to be challenged and also to back up her assertions. It is true that her tone sounds biased and uncharitible, but sometimes there is some signal in the noise, and those who want as much truth as possible will value hearing all the good and maybe a bit more of the bad —- this is not a eulogy, after all.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

I bet we all like to describe ourselves charitably, some even heroically.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

There are multiple groups of Good Old People in Richmond, and such clubs are everywhere, even Tribes have in and out groups.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

I bet you are soft on certain criminals. Was he a thief? I honestly don’t know and I would be interested in hearing the facts. Yes, the man had hubris, became a criminal, was caught and punished, but was also very talented and energetic and like most such people quickly did well again. I can’t remember the details of his bribery, but some places like many developing countries and Chicago, NOT bribing officials means you can’t do business there and then foreign competition gets the contracts. The way we do things in our society is the Federal Govt pays the… Read more »

Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
9 months ago
Reply to  Ashley Smith

He served his time, Ashley, and once folks move past their sentence, it’s time for everyone else to move on too.

Brett Themore
Brett Themore
9 months ago

While he made an impact for sure, and will be touted here by the real estate, bushiness and developer heavy community on this forum, his legacy will be quite the opposite in other communities. I’ve seen his firm in action first hand, his business ethics were proven unethical and that mentality bled into all facets of his portfolio. His architecture and build quality was sub par. HIs twisting of the Historic designation tax credits were down right unethical. He took from communities, from architects and architecture, he took from society and history, all while improving his bottom line. He gave… Read more »

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
9 months ago
Reply to  Brett Themore

So Ashley said about the same thing – only you said it nicer. You get upvotes and Ashley gets the haters? I don’t understand.

Peter James
Peter James
9 months ago

You answered your own question. Brett stated plain, simple facts without all the vitriol. Big difference between condemning a person’s bad actions/behavior vs condemning the person.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

Well… to be fair it sounds a bit like an indictment of the person as well, just with a bit more explanation– Brett makes it sound like he doesn’t even respect his business acumen, which many parties that I guess would rather live in Venezuela don’t appreciate the importance of, and then makes the dubious claim that he has degraded richmond somehow …. 🤔 I wonder if he was in Richmond in the 90s and 80s —- some places are hard to make worse, and often when you are making such places better you can get your hands dirty and… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago

He explained things that at least sounded factual. Not sure he was beyond the pale in the RE world though… in most tings you have to pay more for quality and RE is one of the biggest examples of this. My first home purchase was a big old bldg in a slum with no central heating in a city that had a lot of poor people. Pipes would freeze, I nearly froze, and nearly died when the wood stove got overstoked with waxed cardboard from the food co-op that one of my tenant-friends stuffed in there; but that was the… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Brett Themore

FYI Harvard has had many convicted criminals and proven traitors among its alums. Thanks for getting closer to valid criticism even though there is probably more a majority of ANTI business people on this site, from what I have seen, or people who only like unprofitable and barely profitable businesses. I think it is clearly a stretch to say that Richmond’s New build quality is due to this one dude —- it is due to what Richmond has long been — you name a place with higher quality newbild (I can name many here and abroad) I will explain why… Read more »

Amanda Monroe
Amanda Monroe
9 months ago

Sad to hear of the passing. I Rember the days when I went to the New Community school with Louie and Anita.

Krista Miller
Krista Miller
9 months ago

Condolences to the Salomonsky family. Louis was such an icon, Richmond is better off for him.

Shame on Ashley Smith to disrespect someone who has passed. Disgusting Ashley.

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
9 months ago

Definitely a complicated man who often preferred to be out of the spotlight. David was a his public face so often. He had some great visions and ideas but his criminal past is a part of his legacy. Remember the City’s tax abatement was amended after he tried to use basically a storage shed as the the base for a major building expansion. But he gave his time, money, and hands on effort to (before and after his conviction) to so many local charities and non-profit organizations. City Hall staffers back in the early 2000s we used to say he… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by Michael Morgan-Dodson
Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
9 months ago

Thank you for approaching this with some balance. I am the farthest from expert but I get the sense that back then a lot of adaptive redevelopment was just financially impossible WITHOUT these tax credit arrangements? As actual attractive old bldgs to fix up became scarce I started seeing many just old ugly places get qualified and wondered, well if the point is historical, why can the developer cut a bunch of windows into the “historic” brick wall? I tagged along with my wife when she was giving a talk at Duke’s Environmental school and I was shocked by Durham’s… Read more »

Randy Reynolds
Randy Reynolds
9 months ago

Louis was a kind generous person. He loved RVA and his family. He silently gave to a lot of local charities. He was misunderstood by many. He was a great UVA professor. We helped him teach a class. Realky great guy!

Larry Cluff
Larry Cluff
9 months ago

I am sorry about Loui’s passing , he was almost like a father figure to me; he was the person you go to with problems and there weren’t many he didn’t have experience with wether it it was business or legal I am glad that when he was healthy enough I was able to say my peace and gratitude with him personally. Anita and the rest of the family be proud of the great man my prayers are with you