‘I’m rolling the dice here”: Todd Holtzman takes chance on downtown property

Todd Holtzman stands in front of this row of commercial buildings he has recently renovated on King Street in Mount Jackson. Holtzman has rented the renovated upstairs apartments and is searching for a tenant or tenants to occupy the downstairs commercial space. Rich Cooley/Daily

MOUNT JACKSON – Todd Holtzman, the son of the local oil and propane magnate of the same last name, says his latest spruced-up property is half a safe bet and half a gamble.

The property is located just down the street from the town office, at the fork of Main and King streets, with three apartments upstairs and space for up to three commercial tenants on the ground floor. The address is technically 5935 King St., but with the same brick sidewalk pavers as the rest of downtown, it’s hard to distinguish Holtzman’s latest project from Main Street proper.

And that’s the point, he said. For Holtzman, who was born and raised in Mount Jackson and whose license plate reads “MT JCKSN,” the town’s image has been a priority in all of his property development projects.

“The little towns, you’re either growing or you’re shrinking,” Holtzman said. “I’m hoping sprucing up Main Street will continue to kind of keep us at the top of the list here in the valley.”

All three of the upstairs apartments are now occupied, and Holtzman said there’s already a waiting list. No commercial tenants are lined up for the ground floor, though those leases only opened last week.

The floors and walls are intentionally unfinished on the ground floor. When a business approaches Holtzman about using the space, he said he’ll work with that company to decide the final layout and he’ll cover the cost of finishing the space.

Even with this fully customizable experience in a modern, refurbished building, Holtzman said securing business lessees is anything but a sure thing. “I’m rolling the dice here,” he said.

He added that if he had instead built a purely residential building with six apartments, they’d all be full already — but that’s not what the town needs right now.

“Long-term, it will make money, because the units are nice and we get a good rent, so there is a business side of it. But the main driver was, I love this town where I’m from. I want Main Street to look really nice,” Holtzman said. “I took a chance here because it’d be much better to have some private business, to have some traffic downtown and not all residential at this point.”

Holtzman is hopeful this property will draw in a service professional the town doesn’t have, like a lawyer, and sweetened the deal by offering any such provider 12 months rent-free.

This project isn’t Holtzman’s first dip into flipping properties in Mount Jackson. For the past 10 years, Holtzman’s been buying and sprucing up various properties around town, mostly residential. His strategy usually isn’t quite house flipping, not exactly, but a close cousin. He buys properties low, fixes them up and then rents them out instead of selling them.

Holtzman, a long-time Mount Jackson resident who lives in the house built by his great-great-great-great grandfather, said he would walk around town with his kids in a stroller, or with his dog, and notice old buildings crumbling right in the middle of the town’s historic district.

He started contacting owners and buying up properties one by one. Now, he proudly shows off before-and-after pictures of his various projects around town.

“I’ve got quite a few in the town on Main Street. If you see a house that’s been upgraded in the past five years, more than likely it’s one of mine,” Holtzman said.

Recently, Holtzman has been setting his sights higher, leaning into more transformative projects. He has plans to renovate buildings across the street from the ABC store into nine modern residential units, and to build 16 units near the old Triplett Tech School site and to build a brewery out of the school itself.

His hope is for development to beget development, and for other businesses to piggyback on the hopeful success of the brewery and move into the area. Holtzman foresees a revitalization of the downtown that will impress out-of-town investors on their way to scope out industrial property on the nearby Whitehurst site.

“When the executives get off the plane in Dulles and they drive out to Mount Jackson to look at this (site), I think that my contributions to Main Street may help, maybe tip the scale at some point in our favor,” Holtzman said.