Smart Deals That Deliver
Bonaventure Construction sets sights on strategic growth
Located in Arlington, Virginia, Bonaventure is a real estate, construction and investment firm with an integrated approach for its clients. Starting out in 1999 as an apartment leasing company by CEO Dwight Dunton III, Bonaventure has transformed into a powerhouse for the regional construction industry.
Besides apartment leasing and management, over the years the company expanded into development and investments. In 2007, Bonaventure gained an architecture firm. In 2016, the company formed a construction division called Bonaventure Construction, located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. From coordinating financing, to designing renderings, to building and owning multifamily and senior living complexes, Bonaventure Construction Executive Vice President Matt Gass says, “We are in business to rent apartments, and everything we do with design and construction supports that one objective.”
One of the things that makes this builder stand out is its ability to generate a pure design-build product. Bonaventure Production President Jeff Price says, “We provide all the services that we need to generate our product in-house. We have a fully integrated approach. We handle our own real estate, our own design, our own construction management and operations.”
Utilizing specific building prototypes, the Bonaventure team works with the owner, designer and builder to create custom facilities. Christine Bentley, Senior Vice President of Operations, says, “Bonaventure’s prototype is a proven model that drives down costs. It took years to find the perfect model to build that works.”
Christine believes that the way Bonaventure Construction collaborates and partners with clients is a decisive differentiator for the firm. “We build and design with an owner’s mentality because we also own facilities,” she says. “We are always looking for ways to save money for our clients. We are completely transparent, and we are trusted advisers.”
Now Hiring: Growth Breeds Opportunities
When Bonaventure expanded into construction four years ago, it had “all the necessary ingredients for a successful recipe,” Matt says, “Our specialty is building wood-frame, four-story apartment complexes with indoor corridors and elevators.” The company’s floorplan for success has been proven in the market rate multifamily and senior living apartments it builds and operates. Jeff says, “To our clients, we are a solutions-driven company, but we have a very tailored solution. We have a product that we think works very well and is proven in the market.”
Since the design-build team works from a finite number of facility plans, this helps crews perfect their craft by constructing the same thing repeatedly, building more efficiently within the parameters of a certain template or series of prototypes. Building this way “removes risk from our project so we can bring apartments to the market faster and rent them quickly and efficiently,” Matt says.
Forecast to double in size over the next three to four years, Jeff says, “Our goal is to do 10 to 12 projects a year; so from a production standpoint we are going to stick a shovel in the ground every month for the next 10 years.” Company leaders want to provide the tailored product along with the individual services, such as architectural assistance, interior design services, financing assistance, and investing for their client partners, too.
Most of Bonaventure’s projects are financed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, Matt says their team has “a tremendous amount of ingenuity when it comes to navigating the process for acquiring HUD financing.” Considered experts in the arduous process, Jeff says their group can “design the project, build the project and help navigate HUD financing hurdles.”
“Open for business” is the key phrase Bonaventure management wants subcontractors and the trades to hear when it comes to their booming construction division. “We have a message to our subcontractors that we are owners,” Jeff says. “We have a tremendous pipeline. We want to be the first choice for all subcontractors to look for employment.” The company has growing opportunities for employment over the next 10 years. On a typical job, it hires between 35 to 40 subcontractors and vendors. “We want to have partners in success in the design and construction side of what we do because of our capacity to not only grow internally, but externally, so we are excited about sharing that,” Jeff says.
Investing in Employees Builds Value
Bonaventure employees play a big role in the company’s success trajectory. “We live and die by right person, right seat,” Christine says. With approximately 250 fulltime employees, each division of the company is different, but each hires staff based on six key core values: growth, accountability, collaboration, impact, reputation and attitude. Christine says, “When you take that formula of core values, the right person, the right seat, it really creates a unique environment where we are all marching in the same direction and understand the vision where we need to go.”
Through training, succession planning, career pathing and boot camps, employees know they are valued. While the company invests in the next generation of leaders, it also supports those aged 50-plus who want to reinvent themselves.
Diversity is also important to the company. “Internally from a culture perspective, we make sure everyone understands different backgrounds and cultures,” Christine says. “We are constantly creating that campaign of awareness so that we can truly be an inclusive, diverse workforce.”
Through an atmosphere of fun and support, Bonaventure rewards its employees with shout-outs, email recognitions, incentives and bonuses. As CEO, Dwight leads by example, encouraging the teams through companywide messages, personal emails, phone calls or dropping by someone’s office to tell them thanks.
With COVID-19, there have been some adjustments. It’s been hard to celebrate in person, but the teams still have events that make everyone feel connected through their social media platforms. “We celebrate the small successes, it’s not just about the big milestones. It’s celebrating every single win along the way,” Christine says.
The Bonaventure team is proud also of their corporate response to their community during the COVID-19 pandemic. “When everything hit, we decided to take one unit in all our properties, furnish it and create an emergency unit for first responders, hospital workers, and anyone who needed to self-quarantine away from their family,” Jeff says.
Proactively Embracing the Future
Looking to the future, the company actively promotes innovative approaches. “We are beginning to look at modular construction,” Matt says. “We are able to do that because we have streamlined our design and simplified the product we deliver, so we do not deliver a plethora of different types of facilities.”
All projects have some component of energy efficiency. “We have an initiative to convert all our projects that are coming out of the ground to be solar,” Jeff says. We are looking to take the lead in net zero energy on our properties, looking past that initial cost and toward lifecycle costs of these facilities.”
When everyone is working toward the same goal and people are contributing thought-provoking solutions, Christine says, “It’s refreshing. I am excited to come into work every day and be challenged. I’ll look back in 10 years and be really proud.”
Jeff feels the same way, saying, “I’m excited and energized about what we have and what we are going to accomplish.”