In the year since Nick Propps founded Statesboro Properties, his name has popped up on commercial and residential projects all over Statesboro. Now the real estate broker and developer is refurbishing three downtown buildings he intends to keep. One will be his agency's first lasting home.
The Statesboro Properties headquarters is taking shape inside a long, narrow storefront building, directly across East Main Street from the Averitt Center for the Arts. In the process, the interior was stripped down to brick walls. This exposed an earlier exterior end wall of the adjoining building, including painted signs, now faded.
Several letters of the word "Special" appear on painted brick inside the back portion of the building, which will be Propps' own office.
"So I guess if I ever feel bad about myself I can just look at my wall and feel special," said Propps, who is keeping the nostalgic decoration.
As revealed by stories told to him by older Statesboro residents, that part of the building was once a barbershop. The front part at one period housed a jewelry store. More recently, the building served as Daniel Brick's showroom, and Propps bought it from the brick company.
With the help of contractor Jamey Cartee, Propps is keeping some of the look of the early 20th century shop but adding plenty of glass for light. Glass transoms have reappeared over the doors. Windows are being added along the side of the building, where there were none. Layers of ceilings have also been torn away to reveal the original, high wooden ceiling.
New wood framing for the new interior walls was up last week. The front will be a lobby and a reception area. That's where Propps' associate, Jean Ricketts, will have her office.
Thoroughly rebuilt, the building will include a conference room, modern restrooms and office space for two or three more people. Right now, Propps and Ricketts are the firm. But he hopes to have the building ready in a month now as the launching pad for growth.
"2014 is hopefully, potentially when we're going to be adding agents and growing to keep up with the demand," Propps said. "We're going to hit it hard in January and February because we have so many projects in the pipeline right now and we have the two of us working full-time, so we could use some other good people."
He needs no sign to remind him to feel optimistic. Having put the deal in place for the Wild Wing Café site on the Fair Road frontage of the Aspen Heights apartment complex, Statesboro Properties is working on an as yet undisclosed project for a neighboring site. They also have commercial property to offer in the mall area and are working on warehouse space elsewhere. They have a residential development underway on Burkhalter Road and have been selling homes in Irongate and Beaumont and around town.
Meanwhile, Propps is making his mark on downtown.
Across the square on Courtland Street, he is the owner and Cartee the contractor on another ongoing, total renovation. Propps purchased the former Curry Insurance building, another one-story structure, and hopes to lease it to a law, accounting or other professional firm.
But the largest of his downtown structures is the two-story Matthews Building, directly across the street from City Hall. At 5,200 square feet, it has more than double the interior space of the other two buildings combined.
Built in 1920, the Matthews Building was rebuilt by contractor and previous owner Charles H. Wilkinson in 1986. However, Propps' vision for professional offices downstairs and two upscale, two-bedroom, two-bath apartments upstairs has required extensive work to realize. He self-contracted this project.
"This is what can be done with an old building downtown," Propps said. "I believe heavily in getting people to live downtown. That's what Statesboro needs to become more vibrant, so I thought this was a perfect match for achieving that goal."
Propps temporarily put his own office in the ground floor of the Matthews Building earlier this year before moving out and doing further renovations to accommodate The Johnson Firm P.C. Attorney Francys Johnson and his firm have already moved in, but work is continuing upstairs to prepare the apartments.
All three buildings should be complete early in 2014, Propps said.
Although Statesboro Properties is new, Propps, 40, has been in the real estate business for 24 years. He started while in high school in Bethesda, Md., near Washington, D.C. His father was a real estate broker and developer and his mother, a home designer, there. In Statesboro, Propps worked for Todd Manack's agency for about five years before starting his own.
Propps first came to Statesboro years earlier to study at Georgia Southern, then one of the few universities with a real estate program, and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration in real estate and finance. He also met his wife, Melanie, originally from Effingham County. Married since 1998, they first lived in Maryland but returned to Statesboro in 2007. They have three sons, ages 2, 5 and 10.
"This was the place we wanted to raise children," Propps said. "We did not want to raise them up in Washington, D.C. We just love it here, and that's why we've made this our home and we're heavily invested in it."