What's the legacy of Blacksburg developer Jeanne Stosser?
Sometimes lauded, sometimes vilified, Jeanne Stosser
has shaped Blacksburg's development for four decades.
Jeanne Stosser, president of Campus Management Group and a developer of properties in Blacksburg, at the recent groundbreaking of The Edge Apartment and Townhomes in Blacksburg.
Jeanne Stosser (center), president of CMG Leasing, sits next to Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam (right) and other community leaders during The Edge apartments groundbreaking ceremony in Blacksburg.
Before tearing down the old OakBridge apartments to make room for The Edge, Stosser
for Humanity to fetch appliances and furniture.
Jeanne Stosser, president of CMG Leasing, was at the groundbreaking in June of one of her latest projects, The Edge apartments in Blacksburg.
Jeffrey Stosser (from left), vice president of development; Jeanne Stosser, CEO; and Scott Stosser, senior vice president of construction at SAS Builders in Blacksburg, have been instrumental in many of the townâ€™s developments.
Some of the projects that Jeanne Stosser
has worked on over the past 40 years.
- Jeanne Stosser
is tired of the smears.
Having never graduated from college, though she
took an array of classes, Stosser
built apartment complexes where thousands of university students in Blacksburg and Radford
Having scrambled back from a divorce that she
said left her
near penniless, she
developed neighborhoods where home prices reach well into six figures.
In the 40 years since an employment aptitude test advised that she
work in sales - and a community college professor recommended that she
get a real estate agent's license - Stosser
has risen to become one of the region's highest profile real estate developers.
has been a force behind hundreds of millions of dollars of construction, a guiding hand behind SAS Builders
, CMG Leasing
, Fiddler's Green Partners
and more - corporations that reshaped vast swathes of the New River Valley.
But to many people, Stosser
remains defined by a pair of projects from the past 10 years: the First & Main
shopping center on Blacksburg's South Main Street, and at the other end of town, the Northside Park subdivision.
is seen as the woman who tried to bring Walmart
and a conventional sewer system to the semi-rural Tom's Creek Basin, and who twice took the town to the Virginia Supreme Court
- and lost.
References to the controversies have reverberated in public discussions of Stosser's
newest projects, often used by town officials and residents alike as a sort of shorthand for a litany of development-related complaints.
The problem, Stosser
insisted recently, is that neither the Walmart
battle nor the Toms Creek sewer struggle was her
Both were business deals that involved multiple parties, and it was other partners who controlled the controversial parts of the process - proposing to bring in a giant retailer or suing the town to try to force it to build a sewer, she
But it was Stosser's name that became attached to the furor.
And as the years go by, she
admits, the name-calling stings.
"I positively did not bring Walmart to the town of Blacksburg," Stosser said.
In recent interviews, Stosser
was quick to credit the contributions of co-workers and partners.
said it was her
own drive, her
own perspective that launched the pattern of buying and building, acquiring and holding that is now familiar to those who watch development in the New River Valley.
"Raw determination, fear of being broke, fear of nursing homes and never wanting to depend on my children" were her
"I may seem a little crazy to some people," Stosser
"But there is method to the madness."
has been a hallmark for years.
is a go-getter and kind of like a bulldog. ...
doesn't seek controversy, but she doesn't shy away from it either," added Bob Pack, who like Stosser has years of development experience in Blacksburg
Having grown up on a farm in Cedar Springs, an area near Rural Retreat in Wythe County, Stosser
landed in the New River Valley in the late 1960s as her husband, Paul, took a job at the Corning plant and finished an engineering degree at Tech.
Then in 1973 came the first of two events that Stosser
said set the course of her
"You need to be in sales," Stosser
recalled Barnes saying.
Then the professor added, "If you're going to do it, why not make some money at it?
You should sell real estate," Stosser
By 1975 she
license, and she
and another woman, a friend who had also just earned her
license, were working in Carl McNeil's office in Christiansburg.
Not many women sold real estate in the New River Valley then, Stosser
The way Stosser tells the story, she
friend just insisted . "Carl's so sweet
couldn't say no," Stosser
working evenings and when her sons were in school, business boomed, McNeil said.
Then came the second event that Stosser
said shifted her
Stosser had studied - though without finishing a degree - at New River Community College, at Eastern Tennessee State University, Roanoke Business College, and Elmira College and Corning Community College in New York.
already had begun to move past selling real estate and had been involved in creating the Woodbine subdivision in Blacksburg
The seminar made her
determined to buy real estate and hold it.
Building for the future
had decided that for her
, long-term financial success would come from investing in land.
To this day she
does not own stocks or keep money in IRAs, she
"Institutions manipulate the stock market, but I know nobody's going to screw with my dirt," Stosser
"I know that sounds silly but it's that simple."
At the age of 32, Stosser made a plan that she figured would let her retire at 50.
development ideas by converting the Jefferson Building in Radford
into two dozen apartments with commercial spaces on the ground floor.
family had moved to Kennedy Avenue in Blacksburg
, where her
sons would ride go-carts through the woods and meadows that she
would decades later help transform into the First & Main
Then in 1982, Jeanne
and Paul Stosser separated.
stayed in Blacksburg
plan, setting a new retirement age of 55, she
"I went from '84, broke, literally ... and put all that back together," Stosser
Jeanne Stosser began what she now calls her comeback by trading her commission work for the more stable income of a salary, working for the real estate division of HCMF , which operated a chain of nursing homes and owned large amounts of property in Blacksburg.
At the same time Stosser was lining up friends willing to invest in her
recalled a mid-'80s home-building venture with two friends where the finances were split up so each partner could get a loan.
"Yes, I used their credit because I really didn't have any at that time," Stosser
Freewheeling arrangements were more standard in that era, Stosser
In the late '70s building of Woodbine, partners sold one another lots so each could make payments on 21 percent-interest bank loans they'd obtained, she
"I think we put ours on a credit card," Stosser
In 1983 Stosser formed Metro and Company Realty, which later became MCR Property Management, and eventually CMG Leasing, a Stosser company that now oversees hundreds of apartments and townhouses, most in Blacksburg, but some also in Radford and Christiansburg.
By 1986 she
was developing a small neighborhood of single-family homes on Blacksburg's
Broce Drive, and starting what would become 20 townhouses on Green Street.
The next year she
was involved in building and selling condominiums in a former shirt factory two blocks from Radford University
"I worked many long hours for years and usually seven days a week between the property I had, the next deal working and managing what was