Artist turned developer puts quality first
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Giorgio Furioso ’73 (art and design) has a history of doing the unexpected.
Instead of attending graduate school at Yale, he followed the woman he was married to at the time to Rochester Institute of Technology because he could teach ceramics while getting an MFA in painting.
He quit his tenured job as the head of the art department at Ohio University Lancaster Campus at the age of 30 and moved to Washington, D.C., where he eventually created a small business, which grew into a development company.
The Italian-born Furioso initially focused on building live/work spaces for artists instead of tackling more profitable condominium ventures. His business philosophy: Lose no money. “Most people in business I encounter think, ‘How much can I make,’” he says.
Perhaps his most unexpected trait is that he works on only one project at a time because he is involved in every aspect of his buildings, from the design to selecting materials. “I concentrate on the quality of something rather than the quantity of something,” Furioso says. “That’s what RIT teaches you—something really beautiful and unique and well made has more value than how many pieces you can produce.”
Furioso estimates that his company, Furioso Development, has built about 15 large projects, along with many smaller projects, accounting for more than a half million square feet of property since it was established in 1987.
He is particularly proud that his company helped redevelop The Roosevelt, once a defunct senior citizen building with only about 50 of its 300 units occupied, into 200 thriving living spaces.
And of his project called SoLo Piazza, for South of Logan, a 77-unit condominium building with a round courtyard in the back. On that project, he was inspired by a friend and business partner to figure out a way to make the backside of the apartment building, which contained the smaller units, the most attractive spaces. He did it—the back sold first, which made the project more successful.
In recent months, he has worked on building an office building in a corridor of D.C. where others built new condos or redeveloped existing ones. The project, designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards, includes a green roof, solar panels and a charging station for hybrid cars. The project was completely leased before the company broke ground.
Furioso says he never imagined himself trading painting for construction meetings. But he says his arts background gives him a sense of discipline that has contributed to his success.
“I walked backwards into what I do today but I have been very fortunate,” Furioso says. “What’s ironic is that the buildings will last a lot longer than any painting I created.”