Back in 2001, U.S. Naval Academy graduate Matt Long went to work for real estate developer John Pilli—an Academy graduate himself 22 years earlier. Long became a project manager for Pilli’s firm, Pilli Development. As it turned out, the two had more in common than their alma mater: They shared core business values, as well as a vision for the company. When Long became Pilli’s partner and the supervisor of the construction arm of the business, it quickly blossomed into its own entity. In 2005, Gate One Builders was born.
Today, Long supervises day-to-day operations for Gate One, now a sister company to Pilli Development. The company works almost entirely as a renovation contractor—and given its location in historic downtown Annapolis, it’s not surprising that much of the business involves historic renovations. Both Long and Pilli are proud of the niche they fill. “We like the challenge of reinventing historic homes to fit modern needs,” Long says.
Meeting those needs often involves completely gutting a historic home’s interior because, as Long explains, running into structural issues is typical in older homes and starting from scratch is often the best solution. “We modify floor plans for kitchens, baths and closets most often because those spaces were originally designed for much smaller living habits than people have today,” he says. “People want more open homes now, so we end up removing or altering walls to make rooms more open.”
However dramatic the interior alterations may be, the firm works to preserve the exteriors of historic homes they renovate. “We create a completely different interior but the outside remains the same because that’s what the Annapolis Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) wants to see,” Long explains. “We give homeowners everything they need in an existing shell.”
In fact, a major component of the historic renovation process is dealing with the HPC—a challenge Gate One has become adept at meeting over the years. “We have lots of experience. We understand procedures,” Long says simply.
One of Gate One’s recent historic renovation projects is the Southgate Avenue residence pictured on the previous pages. A sprawling, waterfront Victorian, this historic home dates back to 1908. The homeowners contacted Gate One to renovate the existing space and to create an addition; working with Annapolis-based Fourth Street Design Studio, Gate One gutted the house, reframed the floors to level them and built a three-story addition onto the back, ensuring that the front façade remain unchanged.
While historic renovations account for half of Gate One’s business, the other half covers ordinary renovation projects, which provide their own challenges—particularly when they involve inner-city or riverfront locations, as they often do in Annapolis. “All jobs involve dealing with unknowns, creating solutions for interior spaces,” Long says. “We enjoy coming up with unique solutions.”
Gate One completes two to three whole-house projects a year, in addition to smaller-scale jobs.
Gate One handles all aspects of the process of gaining historic approvals from the Historic Preservation Committee.
Gate One Builders, LLC, 510 Third Street,
Annapolis, Virginia 21403