Darsey Nicklasson was working in Washington, DC as a community planner when she found herself battling developers across the width of a sidewalk. The developers said it was quite wide; Nicklasson disagreed.
She lost the fight. “And that was kind of the turning point,” she said. “[I] was like, ‘Well, damn it, so I’m going to go build it myself.’
Nicklasson holds an undergraduate degree in business and economics and a graduate degree in urban planning and historic preservation. In 2005, she and her husband moved from DC to Springs, where she officially began her career as a developer. After having his daughter, Nicklasson realized that the city center needed multi-family developments. “I had this crazy idea that I could just go do it on my own somehow if no one else wanted to do it,” she said, “and that’s how it started. ” Today, she is president of Places Management and owner of DHN Planning and Development.
Nicklasson says the built environment affects the way we interact as a society, encouraging or hindering what she calls “occasional collisions.”
“Most [places we have] that encourage us to meet… the more chances we have to connect, ”she said. “The more we connect, the more we create empathy for each other, respect for each other, a little compassion. And maybe we’ll be a better community. By creating (literally) more opportunities for interaction, she says, we foster a community that is more in touch with each other.
Nicklasson’s first vertical project was Blue Dot Place, which she worked on alongside Kathy Loo. “I had never built anything … I didn’t intend to build a 33-unit mixed-use building like my first,” she said. “But the earth kind of landed on our knees.” At the time, there hadn’t been any new apartment buildings downtown for 60 years.
Currently, his team is working on two “accessible housing” projects; the goal is to get the rent as low as possible – “which is absolutely the opposite of any other business plan you typically encounter, isn’t it?” Nicklasson said. “Because my rent is my income. And the more everyone can increase their income and business, the US market says that’s what you should be doing. “
But because she sees housing as a basic need – and not just a business opportunity – profit takes a back seat. “To explain this to a bank, [that] I will actually minimize my income and earn only the minimum amount of money I need to pay my operating expenses, cover our debt and make a fixed return to the investor. … I have had many bankers, as well as investors, who have been like, “Why would you do this? Nicklasson said. “But when we find the right investor, they understand why we would do it.”
The biggest challenge she’s faced is finding the confidence to do something different from the industry standard, whether it’s how she approaches development or real estate management. But when she leads with her heart and goes with what feels instinctively right to her, Nicklasson said, she knows she’s on the right track.
Basically, Nicklasson’s passion is people; real estate development is only the medium, an avenue through which it can have an impact. “If, in our new endeavors, we get to caring for a family may go through a transition in life – whether they are moving here or starting new jobs or, God forbid, going through divorce or loss – so we have the chance to pick it up and say, ‘You matter, we’re here for you’, that’s all we need to do, ”she said.
“Housing is our platform. What we do is build a community and let people know they are taken care of. ”