Rick Vayo and his team are rewriting real estate history by breathing new life into historic landmark buildings.By Laura DeSisto | Photography by Dan Cutrona
Once a refuge for those seeking religious freedom, Plymouth is attracting a new brand of modern-day pilgrim—those seeking well-priced and well-built real estate in an up-and-coming town. And for the past several years, Rick Vayo and his team at MEGRYCO, Inc. have been hard at work providing just that.
In 2006, when Vayo purchased a Plymouth office building in which to house his educational publishing business, he had no designs on becoming a real estate developer. But after selling his publishing business, Vayo saw an opportunity in a community that he had come to admire.
“Honestly, before moving my business here, I never gave Plymouth a second thought. But after a number of years, I began to appreciate all that the town has to offer—the shoreline, the shops and restaurants, the vibrant arts and theatre offerings and above all else, a real sense of community and small-town feel, despite its size,” says Vayo.
With his newfound appreciation for Plymouth and a hunch that the town was about to boom, Vayo began to scout out interesting real estate opportunities. It wasn’t long before he and his newly formed MEGRYCO—consisting of himself, his daughter Megan Vayo as development manager, his nephew Jason Vayo as project manager, and his wife, Linda, in charge of interior design and finishes—alighted on the idea of buying and refurbishing Plymouth’s old Armory building.
Built in 1906, the Armory once served as an active military barracks and even housed a juvenile court. Vayo and his team set out to repurpose and redesign the building into upscale condos awash in modern style and conveniences.
“The 20,000-square-foot site sat vacant for many years until we bought it in June of 2013,” says Megan. “We turned what was once an eyesore into 20 magnificent living spaces with high-end finishes and state-of-the-art appliances and fixtures.”
Despite the dramatic interior transformation of The Armory, the development team was committed to retaining as much of the original exterior façade as possible. “Ninety-nine percent of the building’s existing brick and timber has been restored and reused,” says Jason. “We feel strongly about environmentally sound building practices and about preserving history.”
Since the project was a redesign of an existing building, it is considered an “adaptive reuse project,” which Rick points out is greener by nature than new construction. With this “green” mindset, the developers turned their attention to creating more luxury condos within another historic landmark in town—the 1904 Plymouth County Registry of Deeds building on Russell Street. As with the Armory, much of the building’s exterior was retained. The recently finished project offers spectacular water views and bright spaces—morning sunlight pours into nearly every unit as it rises over Cape Cod Bay.
The Vayo family feels a deep sense of satisfaction about the work they are doing to help Plymouth retain its historic charm with these projects, but there’s another source of gratification in their work. “As we started work on The Armory, it became apparent that we could bring at least 100 more people into the downtown area. These residents then become patrons of the local restaurants, dry cleaners, retail shops, etc., which gives a boost to the local businesses and economy,” says Rick. “With The Armory, The Registry and other projects coming on line, the downtown area is already seeing a quantifiable improvement from the work we are doing.”
While MEGRYCO has completed building projects in other communities, Vayo says that Plymouth’s town officials stand out when it comes to working with builders. “The town officials in Plymouth are true professionals. They really get the idea of balancing the need to preserve the town, while allowing for smart growth and development,” says Vayo. “We don’t always leave meetings with everything we want, but we always know they will be fair with us. Plymouth has the finest Department of Public Works we have ever worked with.”
The Vayos have several other projects in the works, including the redesign and repurposing of the turn-of-the-century Knapp School (later home to the Ellis Curtain Factory) into 28 units in a price range from $199,000 to $680,000. “Knapp Place” has an estimated date of completion of June 2017 and it is already 50 percent sold. While these projects represent some of the developers’ renovations of historic properties, not all of their efforts fall into that category. They are currently working on a new luxury condo complex on Obery Street, adjacent to the courthouse and high school, which will feature such amenities as a fitness room, common room, billiard room, outdoor pool, tennis court and a roof deck.
Another MEGRYCO venture currently in the works is located near Bramhall Corner in Chiltonville. Unlike their condo style projects, Beech Tree Estates consists of freestanding homes and falls within the category of “Village Open Space Design”—a design that retains a minimum of 40 percent open space. In this case, that means more than 20 acres of common areas and walking trails.
“We liked the lower environmental impact of this type of project,” says Vayo. When completed, the development will contain a collection of Greek revival and farmhouse-style homes designed to capture the charm and historic nature of old-world Chiltonville. As if all these projects were not enough, MEGRYCO is currently in the process of purchasing the Bradford Inn and Suites and plans to convert the structure into 40 luxury apartments and add 5,000 square feet of new retail/restaurant space. “The Bradford” will boast direct water views as it is located steps from the harbor and soon to be revitalized waterfront promenade.
Clearly, these developers are betting heavy on Plymouth.
“Plymouth is red hot right now,” says Vayo. “And we believe it is not even at the halfway point. We see it becoming one of the premiere destinations in New England. We’re already starting to see the downtown bustle all year long.”
Unlike many other suburbs of Boston, Plymouth has its own commercial and industrial base. As a result, MEGRYCO finds that its not just commuters buying their units.
“Getting from Plymouth to Boston is easier than ever with the advent of the commuter rail, so we have a number of our buyers who work in Boston. However, a fair amount of people work right here in Plymouth and we also have retirees who are drawn to the shore and summer vibe,” says Megan.
MEGRYCO’s innovative reuse of old structures has earned them several awards, including the “2015 Best of The Northeast” from US Builders Review magazine and a citation from the Plymouth Historic District Commission for The Armory. As rewarding as this has been, Rick says the most meaningful praise comes from town officials and residents who just stop in to say that they really appreciate what the developers are doing for Plymouth.
While Vayo’s team is busy completing the projects that are currently underway, they’re also continually looking to the future, and to their next opportunity to breathe life into a hidden gem.