With new Salomonsky at the helm, Historic Housing’s latest project rising quickly in Shockoe Bottom

Daniel Salomonsky

Daniel Salomonsky at the site of Historic Housing’s new Shockoe Bottom project last fall. (BizSense photos)

When Louis Salomonsky died last fall after a long illness, his prolific real estate development firm, Historic Housing, flipped the switch on a succession plan it had been building towards for several years.

In addition to Salomonsky’s longtime business partner David White staying on with the company, the plan called for officially hoisting one of Salomonsky’s sons, Daniel, into the top post.

The younger Salomonsky’s mission: to maintain what his father and White have built over decades and, most visibly in the near term, to shepherd the company’s latest project to the finish line.

That project is hard to miss. The 12-story apartment building is rising quickly as one of the tallest buildings in Shockoe Bottom and in a spot next to Main Street Station that’s surrounded by mostly gravel parking lots once eyed as part of a previous plan for a minor league baseball stadium.

Weimans 18th St view

The Shockoe Bottom tower, as seen from 18th Street, rises in the distance as its 12th story is installed in precast concrete.

But Daniel Salomonsky, 55, said one task he dares not to tackle is to try to fill his late father’s shoes.

“Everyone says, ‘Those are big shoes,’” he said. “I would never think of trying to fill them. It’s a recipe for failure.”

After graduating from VCU’s business school, Salomonsky says his father urged him to either become a real estate agent or an appraiser. He chose the latter and worked as an appraiser for the last three decades.

But he always kept a toe or two dipped in the family development business, helping his father with small projects on the side.

“I was always in and out of his office doing projects,” Salomonsky recalled. “My first project with him was an addition for a hotel we had in Prince George. That’s where I learned a lot about the business he does day to day and all the challenges and finesse and forcing things through.”

In 2022, while Louis continued to battle pancreatic cancer, the company brought Daniel in full-time to begin planning for the changing of the guard. His job initially was to shadow his father.

LouisSalomonskyMug

Louis Salomonsky

“I got the benefit of sitting next to him in his office for a year and a half. Sitting five feet away from him 40-60 hours a week, I learned so much and how everything works and how he built a great team so he could do what he loves most, which was solving puzzles.

“Development is one big puzzle and he loved puzzles. And I’ll say that’s what I love about it too,” he said.

That existing team includes White, who had been Louis’s business partner since the early 1990s.

“David White could not be a better partner or friend,” Salomonsky said of his father’s relationship with White. “The way they worked together was perfect. And David has welcomed me with open arms.”

The business has around 100 employees across four companies, including Historic Housing, which is the development arm, as well as SWA Architecture, SWA Construction and property management arm Main Street Realty.

The company owns a portfolio of around 3,000 apartments and has developed around $750 million worth of real estate over the years.

And there’s at least one other Salomonsky in the fold: Daniel’s older brother Stephen, who runs the construction unit.

Despite its size, the company is a lean, well-oiled machine, Salomonsky said.

“(Louis) put a great team around him, so everything is running smoothly,” Salomonsky said. “Everyone keeps saying, ‘You must be overwhelmed.’ Actually, I’m not, because of the team that’s already in place.”

Salomonsky said the main task at hand is the 200-unit mixed-use Shockoe Bottom project, which is taking shape on the former Weiman’s Bakery site at 127 N. 17th St.

weimans crane

A crane earlier this month hoisted up part of the top of the project’s 12th story.

The 12-story structure has been erected at a noticeably rapid rate in recent months, thanks to its use of pre-cast concrete that the company also utilized on its recent project in Scott’s Addition, The Icon.

Salomonsky said the company’s future projects will follow the same model.

“We’ve perfected that model,” he said. “That’s something we’d like to do more of. We’ve gotten better with each one.”

He said the precast concrete has multiple benefits.

“It’s cost-effective and goes up quicker than stick-built,” he said. “Second is its sound-proofing.

Salomonsky said the Shockoe project is expected to last about two years and that Historic Housing will focus solely on that one project.

“Our business model is we tend to do one project at a time and give it 100 percent of our effort,” he said. “We’re full steam ahead on trying to make the bakery the new icon for Shockoe Bottom.”

Other future projects could include a residential tower on a site at the intersection of Gaskins Road and Patterson Avenue in western Henrico County that his father purchased not long before his death last August.

Meanwhile, Salomonsky said he continues to settle into the reality of working daily in his father’s longtime office in Shockoe Bottom.

He said he’s kept his father’s desk intact and works from another desk on the other side of the room.

“I’m sitting here now looking at his desk,” he said. “When everyone comes in the office, everyone looks at the desk and then addresses me. And that is the proper order.

“I will never sit at that desk,” he said.

It’s not just the desk that looms large.

There’s a portrait of Louis hanging in the office, showing him with a smirk. Daniel said it’s a fitting expression.

“Whenever we’re trying to solve a problem, we all look at it and go, ‘He’s smirking at us,’ as if he’s saying, ‘What are you all going to do?’” Salomonsky said. “Not a day goes by that we don’t reference him and ask, ‘What would Louis do?’”

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Casey Flores
Casey Flores
26 days ago

I can appreciate it going up quickly thanks to precast pieces but the icon in Scott’s looks like a Days Inn and now I’m worried this will too

Phil Perkins
Phil Perkins
26 days ago
Reply to  Casey Flores

It’s going to be ugly. You can already tell that.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
26 days ago
Reply to  Casey Flores

Its the icon of cheapness. When driving south down 195 you can see that they did not even bother to paint the rear of the extended parapet on the roof. That portion is facing the roof, but it is also facing 195 and screams out how cheaply the building was done and the lack of care for detail and finishing the job that among other things has been the trademark of this company. I hope the new Salomonsky is able to correct that part of the company.

Jonathan Brown
Jonathan Brown
26 days ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

We should wait until its complete before extending negative judgement.

Phil Perkins
Phil Perkins
26 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan Brown

We’ve seen the architectural drawings. Ugly.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
26 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan Brown

They said it is going to be like the last one. I was more criticizing the last one. If they do something nicer I will be very happy, but the track record is not a good one back beyond the Icon. As I said, I hope the new Salomonsky can correct that part of the company.

Dr. Abe Gomez
Dr. Abe Gomez
26 days ago

Not a fan of Precast Buildings and more buildings are being built using this construction method because of speed and cost effectiveness. They go up quick like parking garages and when they’re finished they look like…..parking garages. At this pace Richmond will soon look like an Eastern Bloc state from the mid 80’s. Tindall must be loving it though.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
26 days ago
Reply to  Dr. Abe Gomez

They don’t have to be though. Many different types of cladding can go on them and they can also be arranged in a variety of ways. Some people who play with Lego will always make a box, but there are those who create something beautiful. When my mom would complain about all new development “New development is not inherently bad, but bad development is bad development.”

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
21 days ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

I was just going to say that “they don’t have to be ugly though.”

Idealists are always a problem but when you have two different kinds in one mind they really are a problem — cost IS an ISSUE!!! Esp in less prosperous cities.

Precast or manufactured bldgs can be just about as nice as one could want — the issue is customization which drives the prices up to the point that you might as well just do 100% site bldg.

Steve cook
Steve cook
26 days ago

My grandpappy used to say, “if you can’t say something good about a person, say something bad.”
I think you must have been a regular reader of BizSense

karl hott
karl hott
26 days ago

Shockoe Bottom will never be the same. Which might be a good thing.

Brett Themore
Brett Themore
25 days ago

The 80’s called and wants it’s circle filled fake gable back. Not sure how it got out, I thought that it was securely locked in the Post Modernist vaults, never to return. Someone please gather this one up and let the “designer” not to do that again.

Gregg Scholla
Gregg Scholla
25 days ago

Maybe lop off a few floors and use the savings to put some soul into that structure…

Michael Boyer
Michael Boyer
24 days ago

That thing is outta square ain’t it?