People - April 2006

Developer is able to fill in the blanks
By Chris Roush

David A. Spetrino Jr. always liked to build things. As a kid, it was tree forts in his Dumfries, Va., backyard. When he finished one, he would tear it down and try a new design. In high school, he was a carpenter’s helper in nearby Dale City, framing houses. While attending Radford University, he shifted gears and got a real-estate license. Even then, he bought and renovated houses for rentals, and during summers, he would build barns.

Today, Spetrino, 34, is president and owner of Plantation Building Corp. in Wilmington. The company, which specializes in condo and other residential construction, should top revenue of $28 million in 2006, up from $25 million last year.

Todd Toconis, who owns Town & Country Real Estate in Wilmington, says Spetrino is fueling the redevelopment of downtown. “He specializes in taking vacant lots in the inner city and putting them back into productive use. It’s the best use of our space with the growth that’s hitting the coast.”

It took Spetrino time to find his way back into construction. After graduating in 1992 with a degree in operations management, he wanted to stay in Radford, so he opened DazTech, which made T-shirts and jerseys for fraternities and sports teams. “I was making money, but it wasn’t what I set out to do.”

In 1997, he sold DazTech and began looking for a place to open a construction business. Once he settled on Wilmington, he and partner Dave Nathans started Plantation Building. Nathans, 10 years older, had a contracting business, Cornerstone Restorations. One of their first projects was the restoration of Graystone Inn, a bed and breakfast.

The son of a teacher and a Vietnam War Navy veteran who is a security consultant for the CIA, Spetrino says his views on development were formed while he was in high school. He got bored with “seeing house after house go up that all looked the same.” In 2004, Spetrino bought out Nathans. Plantation, which has 25 employees, no longer renovates older homes.

In late 2004, he finished Brooklyn House, a new building designed to look like a 1920s hotel. It has two stores and 24 lofts and flats. After that, Spetrino says, “I felt like I could do anything.” In November, Plantation broke ground on another downtown condo project. Also in the works are nine town houses in the historic district and another project near the waterfront. “Downtown just has a vibe to it now.”

His other focus is his own home. He excavated a parking lot in the historic district, and workers found a fireplace and ceramic pottery. He will build on top of the site so it won’t be ruined. “I’ve always lived in renovated homes or spec houses, so this will be truly my home.”