Attainable + SustainableJun 4th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Alumni Profile
ALUMNI PROFILE: Fred Spain ’58
BY LEIGH ANN COLEMAN ’09
It is near impossible to get a nation, let alone the world, to commit to a new lifestyle unless it has been done before and proven to be successful. After over 50 years in real estate and development, Fred Spain ’58 is in the midst of showing the nation how it’s done. Along with his partner, world renowned LEEDS architect Douglas H. Carter, Spain has acquired the land and is acquiring the funds to develop an entire town that addresses the realities that lie ahead: global warming, rising energy costs and scarcity of resources. In the near future, Ranson, West Virginia will be a shining example of how Americans can live a new lifestyle that is eco-friendly and attainable.
Spain has had an appreciation for natural life since he was a boy. Just after World War II, his parents bought a 50 acre apple and peach farm in Delanco, New Jersey, right on the Delaware River. As Spain grew up, his memories broadened from life on the farm to life on the river. During that time, he hunted ducks and geese, trapped muskrats and fished the rivers and creeks in New Jersey. He has owned several boats during his life and now is captain of “Reel Easy,” a 55-foot sport fishing boat. This easily explains the nickname of “Mark Trail” listed under his class photo in the Eukairia, Wesley’s yearbook.
Although he was a natural guide when it came to exploring the outdoors, Spain was on the receiving end when a high school friend named Al Snow led him to discover Wesley Junior College, where he would begin his higher education. Snow was going into the Seminary, a path Spain also had entertained, so the United Methodist institution had a unique draw. After a meeting with President Slaybaugh and some convincing of Spain’s parents, the 18-year-old from Delanco officially became a Wolverine.
“My two years at Wesley were my growing up years,” said Spain. Wesley was a new beginning where he found lifelong friends by joining the Student Council and the football team. He also found strong mentors like Dean Sterling and Lewis “Uncle Louie” Wells. “I think I can say without hesitation, that all of us from the Class of 1958 believe that without Wesley, we would never have seen the bright light of day and what the world truly offered.”
Even though more than 50 years have passed since his days at Wesley, Spain can still recall a course assignment that has forever shaped his perspective. He reminisced, “My most memorable experience of ‘awakening’ my spirit happened when Professor Wells gave us an assignment to write about what we experienced when we read ‘Seeing Life’ by Alexander Baron. I have been trying to see life every day since.”
Spain became interested in real estate when he transferred to American University after Wesley. In 1959 he landed his first real estate job and obtained his license. Almost 20 years later, Spain, with his wife Barbara, bought the BetterHomes and Gardens real estate franchise for the Washington metropolitan area. In addition to operating his realty business, he developed numerous commercial and residential projects covering more than 3,000 acres in Prince William, Fairfax, Culpeper and Loudoun counties in Virginia. He later sold his real estate offices to the broker managers so that he could focus exclusively on land acquisition and development. In 1988 the Spains purchased a 200 acre apple farm in Fauquier County, Virginia, which the couple owned for about 10 years before moving back to Washington to a house on the Potomac River.
Among the many posts throughout his career, Spain is a past first vice president of the Northern Virginia Board of Realtors and past chairman of its Fair Housing Committee. He is a member of Jefferson County Citizens for Economic Preservation and National Association of Realtors and earned the distinction of being named among the “Oustanding Young Men in America” in 1976.
The Spains are now the principal brokers for American Realty and Management in Maryland and Virginia. He and Barbara also own the West End Group Investors, LLC, ADS Developers, LLC and Grand Vista, LLC, which serve Martinsburg and Ranson in West Virginia. The West End Group and Grand Vista are currently developing over 1,300 acres of residential and commercial land to eventually become “RansonGreen: A West Virginia Community for a Carbon Free Future.”
For the past five years, Spain has worked tirelessly to obtain properties and research the latest technologies that are required to create a sustainable city. “With the economy so stressed these days, we have found that the investors and manufacturers of green products need a place to display them — in a true world working environment where these new products can be seen and tweaked,” said Spain. “There is no better place to do this than in homes and commercial buildings that are using them in their daily routines.”
Situated in one of the most historic areas of the country and neighboring Charles Town and Harper’s Ferry, the town of Ranson could not be a more ideal location to “build the future on the best of the past.” The land boasts beautiful fields, mountains and rivers, yet is close enough for residents to commute to Washington, D.C. while enjoying a 33 percent lower cost of living. With business already thriving in its surrounding area, Ranson has all the potential needed to set the new standard. “We are set to prove that our project can produce enough pure energy, with electric and hydrogen being the power supply and reserve, to run our houses, transportation and businesses from the utilization of wind, solar and biological degeneration of waste.” Existing on clean and renewable energy sources, the urban design and architecture of RansonGreen will provide a home to more than 12,000 individuals and families as well as major corporations and small businesses. The vision is an all-encompassing community that offers a variety of shopping and entertainment along with recreational, civic and cultural activities for its residents.
Beyond all the hard work they do every day, the Spains continue to enjoy the life they lead and try to keep up with their 13 grandchildren. “We appreciate the many opportunities that going green has offered us with new technologies developed by wonderful people who are working toward building an environment that supports and defends planet Earth,” Spain remarked. While persevering in order to complete the RansonGreen project, he and Barbara see a future filled with green cities “for generations of humans to come forth and enjoy the beautiful planet as we have been able to during our many years of life.”