Breath of Life

Waukeshaw Development brings new life to old buildings.

(Photos by Adam Ewing)

Dave McCormack can tell a story. He has a passion and knack for uncovering and preserving the hidden, unknown, mysterious, and undervalued. He creates new stories as well, recognizing potential and connections unseen by others. Early in his career, as a writer for various Richmond publications, McCormack told quirky stories and shared hidden gems with his readers. As a developer and community builder for the past 15 years, he has created new ones throughout Virginia, breathing life into buildings and communities through his projects.

Petersburg, Martinsville, Bedford, Amherst, Vinton, Blackstone, Clarkville, and Cape Charles—these off-the-beaten-path towns are often overlooked by developers, but for owner Dave McCormack, COO Emily Sanfratella, and the team at Waukeshaw Development, properties in these towns can be catalysts for community revitalization. “You start thinking about what’s the brand of the town and how you can attempt to contribute to it in some way,” McCormack says. “In Petersburg that happened, in Bedford that happened, and look at Amherst, we are doing three projects there, and it’s amazing to be part of the continuation of their story and a steward of those old buildings.”

From apartment buildings crafted from decaying warehouses and schools, to breweries in historic mills and ice houses, the beauty of Waukeshaw’s work stems from the vision of what could be and the alchemy and spirit they forge to make it a reality. “We try hard to think about it from the perspective of the end user, whether that’s a tenant [at one of their many properties] or a customer at a taproom or a golfer,” says Sanfratella. “We try to imagine and curate their experience from beginning to end so they walk away with a great feeling.”

It takes great effort to get all of the details right, and McCormack credits Sanfratella with keeping operations on track. The duo has built a loyal team by promoting from within and making sure they are all operating on the same wavelength.

And as for the company’s name, McCormack says he was exploring a potential site when he found a huge, decrepit generator covered in vines, the word “Waukesha” barely visible on its side. Thinking about the outsized effort needed to bring it back to life, like so many of their projects, he adopted the name for his own.

Here are a few of Waukeshaw’s current projects:


Housed in the former Amherst Milling Company, a circa 1900 mill that has been named a historic landmark by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Camp Trapezium will soon open as a farm brewery outpost of the original Trapezium, in Petersburg. The brewery will grow peaches, pears, apples, and heirloom cantaloupes, and keep bees on the 27-acre property.

Kate Magee Joyce | Kate Magee Photography

Camp Trapezium

(Camp Trapezium in Amherst)


Captivated by the mysteries of Masonic ritual and the beauty of Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood, Waukeshaw has begun transforming the nearly 100-year-old Greek Revival building that formerly housed the Richmond Association of Masonic Lodges. McCormack plans a taproom, event space, and beer blending operation—beer brewed off-site will be blended and aged under the supervision of James Frazer, who leads beer operations across the Trapezium and Beale’s Brewery locations.


The team is currently reviving a traditional country club that sits on 280 acres of land originally deeded from King George II; the property includes a pool, tennis courts, and a golf course, as well as a historic barn and 18th-century manor being renovated as a future inn. The beautiful and historic property sits at the intersection of Routes 151 and 29, close to the Brew Trail in Nelson County.

Kate Magee Joyce | Kate Magee Photography

Amherst Country Club

(Historic barn on Winton Farm in Nelson County)


Unlike many of Waukeshaw’s historic rehabs, Beale’s East is new construction, built in cooperation with the city of Yorktown. Beale’s East brings the success of the original Beale’s Brewery and restaurant, in Bedford, to Hampton Roads. Always attuned to the bounty of the locale, Beale’s East will feature fresh seafood from the waterways and tributaries of the area, as well as a tap menu filled with local flavors.


Across the James River from Lynchburg lies Madison Heights, home to Phelps Road School. A campus of Georgian Revival structures built from the 1920s to 1960s, it will become 40 market-rate apartments with help from the Amherst County Economic Development Authority and historic tax credits.

This article originally appeared in the August 2021 issue.

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