How a proud OnPath FCU Member is bringing unique homes to the Hoffman Triangle
Nick Conner, contractor and owner of a custom wood work company, Conner Millworks, has been a proud OnPath FCU member since 2018. He was referred to the credit union to obtain a loan to help build and restore properties in the Hoffman Triangle, his business location for more than 6 years. In less than a year, with the assistance of OnPath FCU's Commercial Lending team, Nick completed two rental projects. He transformed a single family abandoned home into a two-bedroom two-bath duplex as well as completed construction on a duplex with a modern architectural design guaranteed to catch the eyes of passersby.
We sat down to talk with the 2018 Historic Preservation Award Winner about his vision of bringing unique homes into the Hoffman Triangle, the challenges he's faced, his company's future, and more.
What was the influence for the designs of your rental properties, especially the one on South Rocheblave?
I spent a lot of time being thoughtful about my spaces, and I wanted to build something different that's interesting to people of all walks. Something designed doesn't have to be expensive and you can be thoughtful and make affordable housing that's visually appealing and attractive. I wanted to create something where people can instantly walk in and be like someone thought about this and immediately want to be a part of it.
The house on South Rocheblave was a collaborative design with an architect friend. At first the house looked really strange because it was just a weird stick structure. But as soon as the siding was added I started receiving phone calls, people were stopping asking for my number, people wanted to rent it and buy it. When it was finished it was rented out almost immediately. I was thrilled with how the home came out.
How would you say your investment properties affect the community?
It helps hold the neighborhood together, encourages new positive growth and maintains the integrity and fabrication of the neighborhood. I'm trying to find a way to make the neighborhood nicer but not gentrify and kick people out. Keep the same people here and bring more. If you price things really high in a neighborhood you won't be able to keep the population that's there now in their homes.
What was the process like getting the funds needed for your investment properties?
Some of the properties I purchased were through tax sale. Essentially the titles are good and clean, but they are considered higher risk. So, I was talking to a builder friend of mine, about who would finance a home like this and he said to call OnPath FCU. When I met with the team, we talked about my vision and they mentioned to me how well it correlated to OnPath's.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced with your rental properties and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is trying to balance my design taste with also being on a budget. I try to find things that are appropriate for my design and intent. But also, won’t make the rent go up. It's always a fine line when I'm trying to build a quality interesting space for people to live in but also affordable.
Would you say OnPath FCU has helped you accomplish your goals of creating interesting spaces for people to live?
Yes, without OnPath FCU, I would still be dreaming. I mean that in all sincerity. OnPath, Lacey and the whole team, have helped me transform my vision and dream into an actual reality.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs with similar dreams?
The best advice I can give to a young person starting out is to plan as much as possible and to ask people who know more than you as many questions as possible. Surround yourself with people who know more than you. My first day on a really big job, there was an older contractor who was retiring who told me, "The best thing I can tell you to do is to stop talking and listen more." That has really stuck with me.
What are your plans for the neighborhood?
My mission right now is to build five doubles in the Hoffman triangle, after that I want to use the revenue I'm earning to beautify, and then network and encourage other builders to come over and build. I plan to start building my third property in the next couple of months.
When Nick isn't working in his wood shop or on his rental properties, you can find him working in his garden. The Garden "a piece of the country brought to the city," is his way of having more control over the quality of his food. In the future, he will extend the use of the garden to his tenants by building raised beds for additional crops and adding chickens for fresh eggs.