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With Tuscan Village, This Endicott Alum is Building a City within a City

Kenny Sturgess ’17 M’18
With the construction of Tuscan Village, Kenny Sturgess ’17 M’18 is working to make Salem, N.H., a year-round destination for New Englanders to work, live, and play.
By: Sarah Sweeney

Kenny Sturgess ’17 M’18 has had a lifelong fascination with big trucks and heavy equipment, with real estate and construction, and the rise of something new and magnificent. 

“When I was nine, we built an addition on our house and there are pictures of me somewhere just playing around on the trucks when the workers weren’t there,” he said. “I was just naturally drawn to the creation of something. I found it so interesting.”

These days, Sturgess isn’t driving big trucks, but he is behind them in a sense as a senior associate at Tuscan Village in Salem, N.H., where he’s focused on the development, leasing, and financial side of the sprawling complex. While many people know Salem as the home of summertime favorite Canobie Lake Park, Sturgess is working to make the city a year-round destination for New Englanders to work, live, and play. 

Tuscan Village, Salem’s now-sprawling open-air marketplace, is a long way from Florence, Italy, but its Tuscan Market, which abuts a Williams-Sonoma and partners with the home retailer to offer in-house cooking classes, does rival Eataly. Tuscan Village also houses office space, homes, condos, apartments, and stores like Pottery Barn, the Container Store, LL Bean, Nike, and recently welcomed a Mass General Brigham Integrated Care Center. Forget village—it’s a city within a city. 

But it all started with bulldozers and dirt, which Sturgess originally watched from afar. He grew up just right down the road from Salem, in the shadow of the Rockingham Park horse track that shuttered in 2009 and quickly drew the interest of Tuscan Brands CEO Joe Faro. 

The longtime restaurateur and entrepreneur had recently sold his pasta and sauce enterprise to Buitoni/Nestle Co. and was working on building the Tuscan Brands restaurant arm when the Rockingham Park closure presented an opportunity to redevelop the 170-acre, 4.2 million-square-foot track. Faro, who grew up in Merrimack Valley and whose Tuscan Kitchen restaurant was already a Salem staple, envisioned a mixed-use lifestyle destination, not unlike Somerville’s Assembly Row. 

Sturgess was already familiar with Faro; his first job was parking cars at Tuscan Kitchen when he was 16. “Then I went off to Endicott and thought, ‘My days in the restaurant are long gone,’” Sturgess said with a laugh. But once holiday break rolled around, Sturgess was back at Tuscan Kitchen for some quick cash.

Kenny Sturgess ’17 M’18

And he kept tabs on Faro’s progress. Working at Tuscan Kitchen “kind of opened the door” to a professional relationship with Faro, Sturgess said. “I was a kid and here’s this guy who has done so many great things already in life and I was very impressed. I found it very admirable. And I tried where I could to make a connection there.”

In 2015, Faro purchased the first tranche of land while Sturgess was an undergraduate at Endicott studying international business and playing lacrosse. Busy as he was, he made time to bug Faro via email.

“I rarely got a response,” confessed Sturgess, who wanted to pick Faro’s brain about the project. “It was this groundbreaking project that was happening down the street from where I grew up.”

In 2017, Faro purchased the second tranche of land and construction started on Tuscan Village.  That same year, Sturgess enrolled in Endicott’s MBA program. As an undergrad, Sturgess had further geeked out over commercial real estate during internships at Waterstone Properties and Horvath & Tremblay and, by the time his MBA graduation rolled around, he had a job offer from JLL Boston on the table.

Then Faro texted. “It was a number I didn’t have and it just said, ‘Hey, Kenny, I need you to be at Tuscan Market tomorrow at 9 a.m.,” recalled Sturgess. “To have the opportunity to be involved in something like this, this close to where I grew up … obviously I put everything on hold at that point.”

Sturgess had more or less manifested his future job into fruition. “It takes no time in my day to send an email every couple of months, or once a quarter,” he recalled. “Just ‘Hey, saw this happen, super cool, congrats.’ Even if he just read one, maybe that was the difference.”

Construction is ongoing at Tuscan Village, including on The Artisan Hotel, a soft-branded Marriott Hotel with luxury residential condos and a wedding and events center, slated to open this summer, which also heralds the return of the Samuel Adams beer garden complete with live music. 

As Sturgess points out, malls have been on the decline for a while, with mixed-use open-air shopping plazas on the rise, especially post-COVID, and many, like Assembly Row, feature retail, office, and residential properties too.

It’s not all glamorous though. Sturgess works out of a trailer on site (with a space heater on high) and his day-to-day is very “boots on the ground,” he said. “It’s a different way to experience things.”

Also unique to his role? Seeing the tax revenue flow into the state and the creation of thousands of jobs in the Merrimack Valley region. Not bad for a kid from down the street. 

“It’s extremely rewarding,” Sturgess said. “Real estate is one of those things you can see and feel and touch what you’ve done. Thirty years from now, I’ll be with my kids and family and say, ‘Hey, that was the first thing I ever worked on.’”