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Sunday, May 26 News

Profile: Randy Salvatore, New Canaan Town Hall Building Committee member

Randy Salvatore sat back in his deep brown leather chair and thought back to the beginning of his career, before he sat at the dark wooden desk in his Stamford office, with its red, gold and green patterned wallpaper and matching draperies.

He recalled working as a commission-based real estate agent in his early 20s and moving up the ranks to his current position as a top developer in Stamford.

He is also vice chairman of the Town Hall Building Committee III, the volunteer board overseeing the planning and construction of New Canaan's roughly $12 million project to construct a modern Town Hall building.

Though the committee comprises several members with impressive resumes, and sometimes equally strong opinions, Salvatore is, arguably, the most vocal and direct of the group.

"I'm of the opinion that if I can add value, I'm going to give my opinion. It doesn't mean I'm always right, but in that discussion I find that a better option comes about," he said.

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Salvatore, who also served on the committee's predecessor, Town Hall Building Committee II, which was shelved after the financial crisis, agreed to participate a second time around. He said his is happy with the latest plans from KSQ Architects.

"It's a way to give back and be in an environment I can add value to," he said. "I like the latest plan. I think architects did a great job. What you have to do is respect historical integrity but need to make functional office space. One of the earlier plans was too grandiose and not reflective of what NC should be. And budget is really important. Office space we supply should be modern should be state of the art but shouldn't be built to such a level that it's not valuing taxpayer money."

If his company's office is indicative of his mindset, then his focus on functionality and cost-savings are not only confined to the building committee. RMS Companies office, located on Camp Avenue in Stamford, is an attractive one-story brick building with thin white columns at the entrance and a mansard roof.

The brick exterior only extends for two windows of the surprisingly deep building, which becomes gray concrete for the remainder of the back of the structure.

Salvatore grew up in Stamford. His father, Ron Salvatore, is president and founder of Accurate Locks and Hardware, a Stamford-based company which builds specialty locks (it created high security locks after the 1971 riot at Attica prison, according to its website). The younger Salvatore said he grew up working at his dad's office. Cleaning up at the end of the day, listening to people interact with each other, the younger Salvatore learned by osmosis about running a business.

He attended Stamford Catholic High School, now Trinity, and then the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which has been ranked the top undergraduate business school in the country by U.S. News and World Report since the rankings began.

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He said he always had his eye on development, remembering seeing new buildings erected in high school and taking interest in them.

After he graduated from Wharton with degrees in finance and accounting, he worked at Coopers and Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he had interned his junior year. He left after a year to pursue his real dream of becoming a developer.

Salvatore started at the bottom, working for the real estate brokerage company William Pitt.

"I spent so much time banging on doors," he recalled. "I think my first year I made $12,000. I said, `Why the heck did I go to Wharton for this?'"

But in his second year, he hit with a good brokerage deal. He took the money from that deal and bought a very small property in Stamford, to develop.

Piecing together contractors he knew -- plumbers, electricians, etc. -- he built a mostly pre-constructed spec home, which he sold for $252,000. He took that money and bought another house. With the addition of a fortuitous interaction with New York Life Insurance Company, the rest is pretty much history. In 1995 Salvatore incorporated his own business venture, RMS Companies.

It is now one of the top development firms in Connecticut. In 2008 the company built an $85 million condominium complex in Springdale section of Stamford and in 2009 he built the $5 million boutique hotel "Hotel Zero Degrees" in downtown Stamford. Another Hotel Zero Degrees is under construction on Route 7 in Norwalk. The company also still does single family homes.

Salvatore made it to New Canaan 15 years ago, when he and his wife found a piece of property they liked. The couple has two sons and two daughters, all of whom attend or graduated from the New Canaan Country School, of which Salvatore is a trustee.

"A lot of our weekends are spent shuttling the kids between squash, lacrosse, skating and gymnastics," he said.

"When I was at Penn, or in high school, and you project out where you want to be in 10, 15 years," he said, "I've been so fortunate to be doing what I want to do, living where I want to live and to have a wife and four wonderful kids. I couldn't have written the script better."

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4413; @Woods_NCNews

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