Jon Veard owns his share of buildings on Broadway, the main business hub of the international city.
One recent afternoon, in a second-floor office at City Center, 300 Broadway, which he owns, sitting behind a huge desk cluttered with papers, he lamented his inability to obtain the most basic building materials.
This failure slowed down work on the condominiums he was building on Beavercrest Drive.
It’s also stalled work on the building at the corner of West Fourth Street and Broadway, once renovated, will serve as the venue for Papasitos Mexican Cantina 4th Street Diner.
“We should be done with several projects,” Veard said. “We cannot bring in materials and supplies.
“We had to wait three months just to get the pipe to run the gas lines (to the Fourth Street location). The electrician couldn’t get the wire to run the wiring. We couldn’t not get steel poles to put the steel poles in there.
“We should have finished this work on May 30, and here we are in August and he hopes to have it done by the end of August.”
The situation was the same with the aforementioned condos, which are officially known as The Residence on the Green.
“We were supposed to be done by June 30 at the latest,” Veard said. “(We will be) lucky to have it finished by mid-September.
“We’ve got eight or nine sold, people are ready to move in, they can’t move in because they haven’t finished. We couldn’t get drywall, we couldn’t get insulation, we couldn’t get wiring. »
United Property Management of Veard has just completed renovations to the former Chase Bank building at 1949 Broadway, which is now home to the Lorain County Community Action Agency’s Head Start program.
In total, Veard controls 25 properties on or near Broadway that it has redeveloped or intends to redevelopment in the near future.
This is only the most recent project, however.
In the early 2000s, he transformed the burned-out Duane Building, 401 Broadway, into a viable mixed-use building that includes offices, a basement restaurant, and apartments.
“I think it was appreciated,” Veard said of the work he’s done to help the Broadway area recover. “We have a long way to go, but we are on the right track.
“More and more people are gaining confidence to do things in Lorain. I haven’t done everything. There have been others. »
Veard is full of praise for the Union Town Provisions restaurant, which operates at 422 Broadway.
“You look outside during the day, they have people piled up in front,” he said.
Dynamism in the city center
Veard’s future plans are huge for downtown Lorain as he hopes to build on the momentum of the Broadway revitalization that seemed to kick into high gear this year.
Veard said he plans to begin work shortly on the stretch of Broadway that runs from 436 to 448 Broadway and includes the old Honecker Building.
This plan provides for the renovation of four shop windows and the creation of 16 apartments for the upper floors of the buildings.
“We almost did the designs for it,” Veard said. “We will start this in the fall.
“I have names of people who want the windows.”
Veard said potential tenants for these properties are an Irish pub and an Italian restaurant.
Additionally, he owns property on West Sixth and West Seventh Street where he plans to build high-end apartments at market prices.
And there’s a property on the corner of West Ninth Street and Broadway where he plans to build eight more apartments and eight garages.
Additionally, Veard owns the Spectrum Learning Center, a charter school that operates out of three separate company-owned buildings, including 300 Broadway.
The owner of the school fell ill recently and she told Veard he should buy it.
“She thought I was the logical buyer,” he said.
Veard ended up bringing in a partner to handle the academic side of the operation, and now he finds himself in the education sector.
A talent to win
Veard was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and is self-taught.
After graduating from Elyria High School in 1959, he served four years in the United States Navy.
After graduating, his father, a longtime auto unionist, forbade his son to follow in his footsteps.
Veard found work selling small loans for the Public Finance Company.
He quickly rose through the ranks to office manager, and office profits skyrocketed with his rise through the office ladder.
When he took office, the office ranked 1,368 out of the company’s 1,600 offices nationwide in terms of profitability.
“Within two or three years, I was the highest-grossing in Ohio and the top 10 in the country,” recalls Veard.
So what was his superpower?
The ability to read people quickly, he says.
“The only gift God has given me is the ability to gauge people and read their character pretty quickly,” Veard said. “It has served me well over the years.
“I have always surrounded myself with good people and I have known how to make the right choices.”
But Veard said he knew the company he worked at was not going to last.
At that time, finance companies specialized in loans between $50 and $2,000.
They targeted the working class who relied on them to get them through tough financial times because credit cards had yet to see the light of day.
Veard said his strength was in getting the people he loaned out to repay the money.
Veard said word got out of his money-raising prowess and a group of local landlords enlisting his services.
“They came to me and said you can collect payments, but we can’t collect rent,” he said. “Can you collect the rent?
“I said of course, what are you going to pay me.”
They agreed on a rate: Veard would earn $2 on every $100 of rent collected.
Soon he was earning more on a Saturday collecting rent than he was at the finance company.
This led to a conversation with his wife, Joy, whom he married 59 years ago.
Veard said he told her he thought he could earn more collecting rent than working for the finance company.
“I want to start my own rent collection business and quit the finance company,” he told her. “Just trust me.”
From collecting rent, he moved on to small apartment repairs such as repairing stoves, broken windows and locks.
He started another company that did this kind of work.
Soon, Veard finds himself managing apartments.
“Three years after leaving the finance company, I was managing 3,000 apartments,” he said.
His work was noticed by Harry Tomlinson, a superior of what was then known as the Farmers Home Administration, a former government agency that funded businesses, housing and facilities in rural areas.
Tomlinson tried to convince Veard to build apartments in West Virginia rather than manage them.
Veard said Tomlinson told him to find land to build 40 apartments and that Tomlinson would “go with him on the rest.”
This apartment project ended up winning an award and Veard ended up building 40 projects before the government terminated the project.
Developing in Lorain
Veard, which launched United Property Management in 1970, did not begin to expand into Lorain until 1987.
His first project was the Antlers building which has a ballroom.
At the time, developers nationwide were telling city officials that it would cost more than $15 million to rehabilitate the building.
Veard said he scoffed at the numbers.
“I told my wife you could tear this building down, put all the bricks in wheelbarrows and walk them around the block and put the building back together for,” for much less than $15 million, a he declared.
“She said ‘you’re such a smart pants, why don’t you do it,'” Veard said.
He walked around the building with a pencil and a notepad.
“I calculated it was 50,000 square feet and it would take just under $2 million,” Veard said.
With the help of the city, he was able to raise the money and complete the work.
However, he did not endear himself to the unions in the process.
Veard said a union bid to do the construction was $600,000 higher than a non-union bid.
He went with the non-union offer.
It was a decision that would draw a price.
Union workers who delivered materials and picked up trash associated with the project didn’t make it easy, Veard said.
They left garbage at the site to reach mountainous heights, deliveries would be left across the street, some even in different towns, he recalled.
“They delivered my elevator to Toledo,” Veard said. “They delivered the wood to the park opposite.
“We had to use wheelbarrows to bring him back.”
The project resulted in cost overruns of $400,000.
Veard said he was able to make up for that loss with the money he earned from his government contracts.
“We did it,” he said. “We survived.”
Veard said it took him 13 years to break even on the deal.
“I lost money for 13 years, and now I own it freely and clearly,” he said.