JJ Levenske – Bleuwave
One of George Strait’s hit songs will soon take on a different meaning.
“I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona / From my front porch you can see the sea,” he sang sarcastically, adding, “If you buy that, I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free.”
Well, later next year, if Strait comes to Mesa, he might think his song has literally come to life. That’s when the Cannon Beach Surf Park is expected to open, yet another result of Bleuwave’s collaboration with developers.
Based in Chandler, Arizona, Bleuwave is a general contractor and commercial construction company, and one of its current projects is a 3.5-acre surf lagoon with Revel Surf and Swell Manufacturing that’ll bring the beach to the Southwest desert. The company also offers HVAC, plumbing, electrical and handyman services.
But the surf park is only phase one of a sprawling $230 million, 37-acre mixed-use retail and recreational playground Bleuwave is building in Mesa. Adjacent to the surf lagoon—separated by 12 feet of concrete—will be a wave pool from UNIT Surf Pool, a German company that has pioneered the use of wave technology. In Mesa, Bleuwave is adding that technology to the 5,500-square-foot swimming pool it has built.
And surrounding those centerpieces will be a mix of restaurants, retail space and virtual experiences.
“There are so many technologies that are colliding here as far as people’s desire to just take in all these different things,” says JJ Levenske, Bleuwave’s CEO and co-founder. “Everyone’s kind of looking at each other going, ‘Who’s going to crack the code as far as what’s the perfect mix? How do we help build this asset class that’s repeatable around the world?’ So, there’s a lot riding on Cannon Beach, including the future of surf parks and their associated revenue streams.”
Investing in the future
Bleuwave is not content just to ride the leading edge of mixed-use development; it’s also innovating in the financial sphere. Levenske and his team launched Bleuwave Investments roughly a year and a half ago to take an equity stake in projects in certain asset classes.
“As a construction company, there’s not enough margin to create true equity in the company without years of profitable growth,” Levenske says. “In other words, the margins as a general contractor are so slim that you’d have to do hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to build that equity.”
To build up a respectable, diversified balance sheet, Bleuwave Investments is looking to partner with businesses that turn to Bleuwave for its general contracting or construction management expertise, injecting some of its own money into those businesses and projects in exchange for recurring revenue or a larger return.
“Some of our big boy competitors have brought it in-house, and yes, they’re rich, and yes, they’ve built an investment brand—but they’ve only done it in one or two verticals,” Levenske explains. “We think that’s myopic and short-sighted. We would rather partner with five, six, seven different entities in a more diversified portfolio.”
When he spoke to Blueprint this summer, Levenske said Bleuwave Investments was aggressively seeking to consummate its first such deal, with the expectation it would have “a snowball effect” on further investments.
Wallet share business
But that’s not all Levenske has on his plate. Bleuwave recently landed a contract with a franchisee that manages 40 well-known pizza chain locations in Phoenix. That company’s owner called Levenske and told him they were looking for a company they could trust to come in and transform all of their stores.
The pizza chain deal grew out of some handyman work Bleuwave had done for the franchisee. The franchisee’s leadership had been complaining about the state of the stores acquired from corporate, so that company’s owner introduced leadership to Levenske. He met with them and persuaded them to use Bleuwave for the more sweeping work they had to do on the locations.
“Wallet share business is not only good for us; it becomes good for our clients, too,” Levenske says. “Because instead of having five or six vendors, if we’ve done our job right, they will have trust in us, and we can give them five services under one roof. And we can still make money while giving them a slight discount.”
Bringing ideas to life
Levenske is a gregarious ideas guy by nature, and that’s also on display in his downtime. After he spoke on a podcast last year, the podcast studio introduced him to another one of its guests, who Levenske knew through LinkedIn.
The duo met up, and within an hour, they were deep in animated discussion of the next three years of content for their own podcast, having quickly figured out a name and approach. Eventually, Levenske’s colleague left to focus on professional growth, so Levenske began running it solo.
“The aim now is that Building Arizona will grow, and we’ve already had meetings where we rebrand it from Building Arizona to Building the Future,” he says. “So, as fast as the market will allow us, I’m just going to keep blowing it up.”
A 1995 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where he studied construction management, Levenske launched his career at a New Mexico home builder, serving as a construction manager until 1997, when he joined Faithful & Gould as a cost engineer. From there, he moved on to several other project manager positions, ultimately landing at Rardin Construction, where he built his skillset beyond project management. In 2008, he became president of “a special team of individuals” at Northway Construction Services.
Levenske went on to land roles like general manager and vice president of construction—at Dreamstyle Remodeling and Schoolbuilder, respectively—before rebranding Schoolbuilder as a new company, Bleuwave, with the two original owners of Schoolbuilder, in 2018.
“The hopes, dreams and plans for Bleuwave are to be known as a brand of excellence and best-in-class for all of our businesses by creating a value so unique that we will be the standard in the industry,” Levenske says.
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