Bring up Rick Vayo’s name in some quarters and you’re likely to get a version of this in response: “Isn’t he the guy that’s trying to take over Plymouth?”

No, he’s not that guy. But he is a prolific developer with drive and vision, traits that invariably get people riled up, especially those who view change of any kind as bad, and developers of any ilk as the enemy. The reality, of course, is more nuanced, more complicated, and more interesting. Change is inevitable. Change without long-range planning is fraught. Returning to a sun-speckled fantasy version of the “old days” isn’t an option.

I noticed Vayo’s work long before I attached a name to his projects, starting with a remake of the former National Guard Armory on Court Street. Vayo’s family-owned company, Megryco, bought it more than 10 years ago and transformed the vacant building into condominiums while preserving its striking architecture. In doing so, he repurposed an existing space that seemed destined to decay, adding much needed housing smack in the middle of downtown.

Megryco started as a real estate holding company, but eventually grew into something much more active. The list of Plymouth developments with Vayo’s imprint is longer than a CVS receipt. (Take a breath here before proceeding). It includes The Registry, a restoration of the 1904 Registry of Deeds/courthouse on Russell Street that is now home to 19 upscale condos; Bradford Lookout on Water Street, which replaced the seedy Governor Bradford Hotel with second-floor apartments, the La Baia restaurant, and the hot new Vitamin Sea Brewery at street level; the former Mount Pleasant School on Whiting Street that became 11 apartments and office space for Megryco; the Davis Manor 55-plus complex on Court Street; and the 20-condo Knapp Place in North Plymouth that once housed Ellis Curtain Factory.

And then there are a couple of magnificent homes Vayo fashioned for himself – one on Chilton Street (which he has since sold), and another overlooking the ocean on Warren Avenue that is better described as a compound.

He’s also got a stake in several businesses, including Plimoth General Store, serves as a landlord for others, and is in the process of converting two rundown Chilton Street buildings into downtown’s first boutique hotel.

Meantime, construction is underway at Saltash, an upscale 55-plus development in Chiltonville on a 25-acre parcel formerly owned by Holtec, the company that is decommissioning the Pilgrim nuclear power plant.

But while Vayo’s buildings are highly visible, the man behind them is a mystery to many people. After my conversation with him, I left with the feeling that he prefers it that way. A businessman in his position must deal with elected and appointed officials who have the power – and, sometimes, egos – to make his ambitions more difficult to pursue. It’s about politics and compromise and unspoken power struggles. Keeping personalities out of the mix isn’t easy, but it’s the fastest way to get something done.

In a follow-up email after our meeting, Vayo said he wanted to make sure this piece reflected the roles of family members in Megryco, especially his daughter Megan. “She oversees all real estate development, commercial lease space, [and] residential apartments as well as having a hand in all other business interests,” he wrote. “I come up with the ideas and Megan makes them happen. Without her, Megryco Inc. could not function.”

His nephew Jason “heads up all commercial and residential property maintenance along with playing a role in new construction.” His son Ryan worked for the company for several years, but now has his own firm, with a partner. It’s focused on high-end custom-built homes.

Vayo added that the rest of the company’s small staff “is family to us and honestly makes coming to work a pleasure.”

Still, there is no question that Vayo is its public-facing force. He is perhaps Plymouth’s most influential businessperson.

We spoke at his casually cool Whiting Street office, across from a tiny historic park that caused him a big headache five years ago. More on that later.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

I’ll start with the obvious: Who are you?

I grew up in Hanson, but I live in Plymouth now. I’ve only been a developer for about 12 years. I was in another walk of life for 25 to 30 years. I was in educational publishing, with my own company. I built that up from about six people to a little over a thousand people when I sold it. I got on a wheel, it worked, and I stayed on the wheel for a long time. Now I’m actually doing what I love.

What was it about Plymouth that caught your eye as a developer?

We just saw Plymouth as an unbelievable opportunity as we drove around saying, “Why aren’t these buildings rehabbed? Why hasn’t downtown living come back? Why are these shops still closed? Why are there not nicer developments in terms of either over-55 or apartment complexes.” And every time we asked that question, it led us to: “Well, why don’t we do this project?” The first one was the armory.

I was here then and had some of the same questions that you just raised. But you were among the few people ready to act on those opportunities.

I certainly don’t think I was the first to see Plymouth as a gem. The developers of Pinehills saw Plymouth as a great place to land and they did a phenomenal job down there.

In fairness to people, it was hard to see what Plymouth could become because it had a sort of a boarded up downtown with some bars and hangouts that weren’t doing anything great for Plymouth.

Phyllis Hughes, my old boss at MPG Newspapers (former owner of the Old Colony Memorial), used to say that downtown stores kept hours for the unemployed – they were only open 9 to 5.

I think it was hard for the average person to see the potential. I’ll say this: I’m horrible at golf. There are a lot of things I’m really bad at. One thing I’m pretty good at is I can look at something and sort of see the future of it – what it’s going to look like, what it could be.

“I’ve always taken big risks on things,” says developer Rick Vayo. Credit: (Photo by Mark Pothier)

Are you a risk taker?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I’ve always taken big risks on things.

And investing in Plymouth at that time was a risk, right?

When we came in, we set goals that no one else had. We set the market in terms of price points because it costs a lot of money to renovate these old buildings. It was like “Field of Dreams” – we built it, and people came. I can remember days when we were doing the armory where I would be standing there holding an arm out in each direction and telling someone, “This is where the walls will be.” And there was a group of people who got it. 

It’s probably my favorite [project] out of all the other ones I’ve done, just because I liked the fortified historic look of it. I think it was the catalyst for downtown living. While we were just getting the armory going, we bought the registry building. Then we bought Knapp Place.

Coming out of the Great Recession, the economy wasn’t exactly roaring.

No, it hadn’t hit its stride.

We’re you using equity in one project to finance the next project in line?

We had about seven major projects going at one time. We definitely had them financed and we were taking some big chances, but we believed in what we were doing. I came from the corporate publishing world and didn’t walk into this as the average contractor. We were pretty well financed. We came with the idea of partnering with Plymouth to make it everything it can be. We were looking to collaborate.

A perfect example of that is when we did the Governor Bradford. We were going for approvals, and at first, we were going to propose all apartments. We thought it was a good use of the building. But [town planning director] Lee Hartmann said, “I want to see retail on the first floor. It’s going to be the connecting point.” We said, “Yeah, that sounds great. We’ll do that.” It took us a while to make that happen and help people see that vision. But that collaboration with the town changed everything. If you go down there now and you look at Vitamin Sea and La Baia, it’s just thriving. It changed the whole dynamic on that strip. It was more than an eyesore. It was problematic in terms of unsavory activity. There was at least one death there every single year.

You know, I’m not always right. I’m more than happy to, at the end, say, “You know what? Someone else’s argument caused this project [to happen].”

Really? Why do I feel like that would be hard for you?

No, it’s not. A lot of people bring great ideas to the table all the time. My job sometimes is to just to recognize what ideas are the ones we should push forward.

Right, but when I look at your projects, the through-line is you. There’s a certain consistency.

Well, in fairness, I end up being the public face, right? I’ll see a building and say, “We should move this forward.” But none of that would happen without the infrastructure we have here. We’re a very small company. We have eight people, eight very extremely talented people that know what they’re doing. They take my ideas and bring them to life. I have the – for the lack of a better word – passion to see Plymouth at a different level. It’s not just about doing a project and making money on it.

But obviously, making a profit matters.

We are very much capitalists and we’re looking to make money on the project. But we will not propose a project to Plymouth that, in my mind, is not in Plymouth’s best interest. Simple as that. I mean, we get calls for five, six, seven projects a week. I turn down most of them.

The Residences at the Armory on Court Street was Rick Vayo’s first major project in Plymouth. Credit: (Photo by Mark Pothier)

You’ve also had a hand in several downtown businesses, including Plimoth General Store, and now you’re building a hotel on Chilton Street. Even when you’re just the landlord, they align with your overall mission. You don’t seem interested in just filling spaces. I’m thinking of the Eastern Bank building downtown, which you own and has been empty for a long time.

We’ve had countless offers from businesses to move into that.

The space seems like a tough sell to me.

No, it could have been rented two years ago. It just wasn’t what I want in there. I’d rather sit on it and leave it empty. And what we want is either a very nice restaurant or very nice retail. We don’t want another tattoo parlor or a vape shop or anything else.

Or another pawn shop.

Exactly. We want specific things that are moving Plymouth forward.

Which leads me into a complaint that I hear a lot. Some people they feel they’re being priced out of Plymouth, that the town is changing in ways that they can’t afford. How do you speak to that?

Everybody hates change. It’s tough.

I don’t think you hate change.

You’d be surprised – I actually do. I don’t want things to change around me, but I also recognize things have to change. Plymouth had gone down a bad road for a lot of years and now there’s this opportunity to give Plymouth a whole new life. And not just locally for the residents who, I think, will ultimately benefit, but for people in the region and then beyond – nationally, internationally – to see Plymouth for what it really could be.

That means increasingly higher housing costs.

The price points are tough. The problem now isn’t that the developers are greedier. It’s the cost of construction, labor, materials. If I were to do the armory today, the prices would be double. We’ve built affordable housing projects on Carver Road and State Road, only a couple of years apart. It was 50 percent more to build the second one. We’re not making any more money because the prices are higher. In some cases, we’re making less and it’s a struggle. We have to manage every dollar so tightly because the costs have gone through the roof.

Isn’t the Plymouth market just playing catch up to towns north of here?

 It is. One hundred percent. From my perspective, Plymouth is just getting to where it needed to be, and people are recognizing that. We don’t have to be second tier to Duxbury or some of these other coastal towns. We have everything, if not more, to offer. Those prices are now reflecting that.

Inside Megryco’s offices on Whiting Street. Credit: (Photo by Mark Pothier)

This seems like a good point for us to talk about the need for more affordable housing. To the casual observer, it looks like Plymouth has plenty of housing coming online, but it’s out of reach to a large segment of the population.

In my mind, the complaints are not about conscientious, strategic development. Most have been about the 40b projects that come in and just, you know, boom, you have another 300 units. From what I’ve seen, people have not been overly concerned about building 20, 30 or 40 units. It’s when these major developments come in and they get jammed down their throat.

But aren’t these 40b projects – which allow developers to circumvent some zoning rules – a result of years of short-sighted planning on the part of the town?

I don’t see it like that. I see 40b development as being about developers who really don’t care about Plymouth. What they care about is building as many units as they can. We will never get to a point where you could stop a 40b. It’s almost impossible, if not impossible, for Plymouth to reach that threshold – with 10 percent [of the town’s housing stock classified as affordable] to stop a 40B. The town is just too big, too diverse. So if you can’t stop them, all you can rely on is having developers that respect the town. There’s a handful of developers that have come in and they don’t respect the town. They don’t care what they’re building, they don’t care how it impacts the town. We’re not one of those developers because we live here, we work here, we play here.

Yet you run into resistance and skepticism. Let’s talk about some of the perceptions, or misperceptions, that people have about you. As an example, I’ll go back to that incident across the street, at Burton Park. [In 2019, Vayo ran afoul of the town for cutting down 46 trees without permission, ostensibly to improve the view from the Whiting Street apartments he was building. In the end, he appeased officials by spending more than $100,000 on landscaping and making other improvements to the parcel.] I’ve lived in this neighborhood for years and didn’t even know that overgrown postage stamp site was a town park. What did you learn from the experience, other than realizing that it’s better to seek permission first? I think if you ask people who live in the neighborhood, most will say it looks better than it did before you cut down the trees.

The first thing I’ll say is I screwed up. It was my fault. I asked how far the town property went back. I got the answer. I didn’t check. I talked to the owner behind the park, got the OK to cut the trees, and I cut the trees. I screwed up. I stood up in front of the Select Board and said I’ll make it right.

Some of your critics made it sound like you destroyed Central Park. It seemed like a “we’ll show him” moment.

I don’t necessarily look at it like it was directed toward me. In my mind, it was directed toward the big bad development companies, and I happen to fall into that.

I guess that’s what I’m getting at.

I should have done my homework. I didn’t. But then I read three or four books on Frederick [Law] Olmsted [the famed architect who designed Burton Park] and tried to recreate it as best I could. I think the neighborhood was better off for it. But yeah, I got beat up pretty bad. When I saw it on Channel 5 and a helicopter was flying over it, I couldn’t believe what was happening.

Right – “developer cuts down trees in historic park.” They didn’t mention it was an impenetrable thicket overlooking an auto repair shop.

It was an absolute mess, but I can’t stress this enough – it was my fault. It still comes up all the time. It’s not in a bad way. It’s usually joking at this point.

The episode fed into the notion that you aspire to be the town real estate mogul – Rick Vayo’s on a power trip.

I don’t want to take over the town. I don’t want to run the town. I don’t want to do any of that. We enjoy what we do. It started out as a very simple mission – let’s dabble in some real estate. And then I had this vision of what Plymouth could be and wanted to be part of it. That continues to grow on a daily basis.

Did we necessarily want to own a hotel? Not necessarily. It was never one of my dreams, but Plymouth will benefit immensely by that boutique hotel opening and no one else is willing to do it right now. There isn’t a decent hotel in the downtown area, and that’s been widely known for years.

Again, you’re the only one that acted on the obvious need, which is kind of odd.

Yes, and the reason we opened the general store is because I’m out there all the time touting how great Plymouth is. Everyone should come to Plymouth. You should move here. You should bring your business here. You should play here. If I’m not willing to put my money where my mouth is and open a store or open a hotel or invest in an oyster business, well, then who is willing to do it? I can’t keep talking about it and keep pushing people to come here if I’m not willing to do it myself. That’s why we end up in these things. I see an area that can be vastly improved, or that Plymouth can benefit immensely from, and we dive into it. We’re looking to be involved in whatever Plymouth needs us to be involved in.

Rick Vayo renovated this home on Chilton Street and lived there for a while. Credit: (Photo by Mark Pothier)

You have a penchant for repurposing existing buildings.

I find that extremely appealing.

What about repurposing Benny’s Plaza, which is in a sad state?

We would be very interested in Benny’s, but I haven’t been able to get anywhere with that.

I know you’re excited about the Saltash 55-plus development in Chiltonville. What’s special about it?

It’s really the model for what all development should be. It’s 65 percent open space and what we are building on is slightly more than the already developed footprint. We cut down some trees, yes, but it was minimal. There was already a parking lot and a building and infrastructure for all of that. It wasn’t pristine. We went maybe 50 to 100 feet beyond that footprint. We’re leaving the rest of the property completely untouched. We have drought-tolerant plantings and native plantings, and a drainage system designed with the [natural] grading [in mind].

The biggest piece is solar. We’ve run into some roadblocks with Eversource, which says it doesn’t have the infrastructure to accept the energy the homes will produce back onto the grid. Which couldn’t be more infuriating because the state and town officials all want us to do it. The plan is that all the units will have solar panels on them, and it will be self-sufficient. You can take this out if you want, but I’m going to plug it: Saltash is the nicest over-55 development ever built in town. The style, the details, the quality of the workmanship, the products being used – there’s nothing even close to it in the Town of Plymouth and very few on the South Shore.

Where do you find the time for all these projects?

I don’t have a lot of hobbies. You don’t find me out golfing for six hours or whatever. I’d rather be driving by a building in Plymouth and trying to imagine what it could look like.

Mark Pothier can be reached at

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