Getting to know … Dyke Nelson

Dyke Nelson, who began his professional career in San Francisco, came to Baton Rouge in 2004, selecting his new hometown after a search of several cities along the Gulf Coast. (Photo by Collin Richie)

Architect and developer Dyke Nelson has become a well-known name in Baton Rouge, particularly on the downtown scene, where he has been a key player in several historic rehabilitation projects. Increasingly, Nelson—both through his architecture firm, DNA Workshop, and through Weinstein Nelson Development—is also building a brand and reputation outside of Louisiana, where he is redeveloping aging buildings into mixed-use developments throughout the South and Midwest. They say-that chance favors a prepared mind. Nelson says he’s just been very fortunate in that he has found success doing what he enjoys. “Everything I do is just dumb luck,” he says. “I’ve been blessed.”

Noteworthy projects…

440 on Third: The former Capital One bank building was transformed into a mixed-use development with 65 apartments, office space and downtown’s first full-service supermarket in decades, Matherne’s.

Tessier Building: Located at 342 Lafayette St., the oldest commercial building in Baton Rouge—which dates back to at least the early 1800s—was renovated into a mix of office space and three apartments.

500 Laurel St.: The mid-century modern building designed by the late A. Hays Town was renovated and is now home to the headquarters of Business First Bank.

Interesting projects…

Electric Depot: The six-acre former Entergy site at 1509 Government St. is being redeveloped into a mixed-use project with multifamily, retail and entertainment space that, it is hoped, will be a catalyst for redevelopment along a blighted stretch of Government Street.

South 14th St. warehouse: A 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Downtown East, adjacent to Nelson’s DNA Workshop, that will be home to several office tenants, including creative firm ThreeSixtyEight.

Inman Mills: A 115-year-old former textile mill in Inman, South Carolina, that will be redeveloped for mixed use, including 159 apartments in is first phase.

The Landmark: An aging office building in Jackson, Mississippi, that is being redeveloped into a multifamily complex anchored by a downtown grocery store.

Journal-Courier and Painters & Decorators Building: A former newspaper building in Lafayette Indiana that is being redeveloped into a mixed-use project with 55 apartments and commercial space.

His vision for 2018…

“It will be a fairly stable year, and don’t see any major changes. I think it will be relatively flat. In general, though, I think everything is still real positive.”

His development philosophy…

“To buy value, find projects that are undervalued. You really make money on the buy side not the sell side, so we try to leverage our knowledge of seeing the value in something others don’t see and then being able to clean it up and put it into commerce. That is really our bailiwick. We try to leverage whatever incentives we can to put dollars back into the business. We intend to hold onto our projects for a long time—we’re not flipping anything—then, hopefully at some point it will have some value and in a few years, when our kids are going to college, we’ll have something to show for it. But for now, we’re trying to build a portfolio and find projects that make sense.”

3 things you need to know…

1. He came to Baton Rouge in 2004 to work with Chenevert Architects, after starting out his career in San Francisco. He’d interviewed with 15 firms along the Gulf Coast and chose Chenevert and Baton Rouge because he liked both. “I hit it off with Norman and I could see a lot of potential here. Unlike San Francisco, where you’re just a drop in the bucket, it seemed like Baton Rouge provided some great opportunities.”

2. He’s growing his business out of state, but not intentionally. “It’s all deal based, like when we find a good opportunity. We do like being geographically diversified, though because if the economy gets bad in one place it doesn’t affect our other properties.”

3. He considers himself an architect first, a developer second. “I do development as a side thing to satisfy my ADD. I enjoy problem solving so solving the financial problems of development is rewarding. I’ve been blessed.”

Fun facts…

1. He’s from Montgomery, Alabama, and went to Auburn University, where he met his wife, Rebecca Kinney, a New Orleans native.

2. He prefers doing triathlons to a single cardio sport like running because it keeps him from getting bored. “That ties into my ADD.”

 

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