When he’s not accepting awards, buying real estate or breaking land speed records in one of his vintage vehicles, Lyjha Wilton ’99 is probably spending time with his five children, singing and playing guitar.
The 36-year-old real estate mogul started buying properties almost immediately after earning a bachelor’s in communication studies at SUNY Oswego. After moving to Rochester, N.Y., for a job he didn’t enjoy, Wilton quickly realized that he wanted to be his own boss.
“I was ready to go out and get it. I didn’t know what ‘it’ was at the time,” he says. “Yet, I was aggressively working toward it.” He bought his first home, a foreclosure, in 2001. After purchasing another property shortly after, he was “addicted to the hunt” of finding and closing deals.
“I was young. I made as many deals over the phone as I could, so people would take me seriously,” he says. Over the last decade he purchased more than 50 properties, sometimes as many as 15 in a year, targeting foreclosures and run-down homes in poor neighborhoods.
Most of the properties Wilton owns are in the Alexander Street area, in the southeast quadrant of the city, long considered an area of redevelopment.
“I wanted to buy and bring exposure to the up-and-coming neighborhood, so people would stop calling it ‘the up-and-coming neighborhood,’” he says.
This development included the establishment of Boulder Coffee Co. boutique in four locations, La Casa Mexican restaurant, more than 150 rental units and a warehouse in which Wilton stores his collectibles of “all things vintage”—namely, cars and motorcycles, which he fixes and races in his free time.
—Tyler Edic ’13