A few weeks ago, we contacted developer Wendell Wood to ask if he would respond to rumors that he was building a palatial mansion in Southern Albemarle County. When he called back, he didn’t want to talk about his house, though he neither confirmed nor denied the rumors. He just changed the subject.

“Why would you want to write about some house I’m building?” he said. “The real story is the expansion around NGIC and how it’s going to bring 1,500 new jobs to the area. Now that’s a story.”

Wood offered instead to show us his new 122,000-square-foot high-security office building adjacent to NGIC, the National Ground Intelligence Center, on Route 29, which he plans to lease to the federal government when the new structure is completed in March. As is often the case with big developments, getting approval on the project was not easy.

As is also often the case, Wood got his way.

For four decades the developer has been buying up land and, as he puts it, “making things happen” along 29 North in a kind of real estate chess match that has become his life’s work. Wood uses a simpler analogy, comparing land buying to eating a pie.

“You take one piece, then you come back and take another, then another,” he says, “but it’s that last piece of pie that is the most valuable.”

But he’s clearly oversimplifying; he has had a hand in developing nearly everything familiar along 29 North, from the the Barracks Road Shopping Center to Fashion Square Mall, Wal-Mart to the Hollymead Town Center, and the NGIC, to name just a few. And it has made him rich. In 2001, Virginia Business Magazine listed him as one of the 50 wealthiest people in Virginia with a net worth of $160 million. MORE

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