Above: Bryan "Scottie" Irving (right) joins Mayor Muriel Bowser at the grand opening of a Blue Skye Development and Construction Company project, The Aya, in 2020. Irving, founder and principal of Blue Skye and a 1986 graduate of Central State University, recently looked back on the influence that the University has had on his life.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Bryan “Scottie” Irving has spent his life on the move and credits his astonishing mobility, resilience, and endurance in large part to his having graduated from Central State University.
A titan of the real estate development and large-scale construction industries, Irving’s impressive career as a renaissance man has previously spanned such fields as history teacher, sports agent, and fashion entrepreneur.
As the founder and principal of Blue Skye Development and Construction Company, Irving’s work concentrates on myriad contracts for a variety of residential, commercial, and government clients throughout the Washington D.C., Metropolitan Area. With an avowed interest in humanitarianism that drives much of the company’s goals, Blue Skye often focuses on affordable housing projects and housing for first-time homebuyers.
Irving received his Bachelor of Science in Sociology after transferring to Central State as a sophomore in 1986.
“The first school I attended on a football scholarship was in the middle of Colorado, and I just never felt at home there, never felt 100% comfortable,” Irving said. “Going from Washington, D.C., to Colorado, going from a city that was 90% African American to a city that’s 90% white was a bit tough for me. I wanted to be somewhere a little closer to home and where I thought I could accelerate.”
Irving credits his astonishing mobility, resilience, and endurance in large part to his having graduated from Central State University.
Irving learned about Central State while he was in high school due to the large base of alumni and supporters who populate his home region. An older business partner who was attending Central State and with whom Irving had started a T-shirt company with during the summer after graduating high school would tell the budding young mogul about the school, as well, even taking Irving one year to Central’s Homecoming.
“I was fascinated because there were a lot of D.C. players on the football team,” Irving said. “So, Central State was already on my radar at least as early as that.”
Irving recalls he felt “immediately at home” at the Institution that would ultimately become his alma mater.
Although Irving’s passion for football quickly waned once he began attending Central State, his craving for community involvement was as potent as ever. He switched his energy to his interest in sociology, starting up the school’s Sociology Club and D.C. Pre-Alumni Club.
Irving additionally continued running his earlier D.C.-based T-shirt company, Madness, selling his wares around campus throughout his time in school.
“I started the T-shirt company really just because I needed to find something to do during the summer,” Irving explained. “D.C. is a place where you always have to keep moving yourself forward, keep yourself busy — you migrate to behavior that you may not want to be a part of. So, I decided to stay busy.”
Irving and friends would pack up their boxes of shirts emblazoned with their slogan of “Summer Madness” in the trunks of their cars, driving around the city and selling them wherever they could find customers.
“They sold ridiculously,” Irving remembers. “They sold really well. But I had always wanted to go to college, so I knew I couldn’t stop there. Selling T-shirts was great, but I wanted to go and get my college degree, too.”
Believing that he already understood the practical business world well due to his success with Madness and other enterprises he’d been involved with in his youth, Irving chose Sociology as his college major to challenge himself. He also hoped he could better understand human behavior through such education, something he hoped would in turn make him a better businessman.
“I was a big fan of Paul Robeson, I was a big fan of W.E.B. Du Bois, and I wanted to understand how and why people act the way they do,” Irving added. “It was also because I lived in D.C. in ’68. I was 4 years old when Dr. King was killed. I saw the riots. And, so, I was always interested in the people and how to put the pieces back together again.”
Irving received his degree in 1991, took a few graduate courses in teaching elsewhere, and began teaching U.S. History, World History, and A.P. (Advanced Placement) History in D.C.
Thanks to his grandfather having left him a four-unit apartment building before he went to college, Irving lived in one of the units and had friends in the building, including a fellow teacher and a Centralian.
After moving out of his apartment for a new house of his own, Irving sold the building and began traveling the country with another friend as a sports agent specializing in NFL and NBA athletes living in and hailing from Washington, D.C.
“I just knew all these local guys playing sports, and I knew they had a chance, so I was able to get in touch with them and have conversations that led to their signings,” Irving said. “It was just about being around D.C.”
Irving worked as a certified agent for six years, during which time he was proud to oversee the career of Sacramento Kings forward Mike Smith. Thereafter, Irving restarted his teaching work and also dove into real estate, acquiring larger and larger buildings.
During his lunch hours at school, he would go observe what the general contractor he had hired was doing with his buildings and soon became “uncomfortable with what he was doing. I became unsure about the guy, and that led me to stop teaching and start concentrating more on my development company.”
By 2006, Irving went all in on property development, starting the company he currently runs, Blue Skye, named after his favorite color and the name of his daughter, Skye.
Blue Skye is now developing 2,000 units in D.C., 50% of which are affordable units, meaning they are specialized for tenants living at or below 30% of the area median income (AMI). Units will also be available for those living at 60% and 80% AMI. Irving feels very fortunate to have won the request for proposal from the city itself some years back to move forward with the affordable units.
Irving and his company have contracted and continued to develop other projects for low-income and previously homeless residents throughout the city. Due to the fact that many of these tenants have never been in an apartment before, Blue Skye will also teach them how to use appliances and other life skills essential and useful for apartment living.
Another of Blue Skye’s buildings is an area men’s shelter spanning 400 units. It has also built a homeless day center and temporary housing units for those in transition. Blue Skye’s latest deal is as general contractor of a $72 million project that will result in a new elementary school. Altogether, with his construction and development deals, Irving’s company brings in nearly $100 million a year.
“Once I was working on my condos and buildings, I would bring in some of the kids to help who I was teaching to keep them off the streets and keep them busy,” Irving said.
“So, I was always integrating what I learned at Central State in Sociology and still do today. It was at Central State that I got to understand myself better and my commitment to the community because they always stressed that to me."
“It was those individuals at Central State who were my instructors and professors and mentors that taught me a lot about life and a lot about organization. I love Central State. It gave me a place to go and find solitude and myself. I get emotional about it. It’s a place near and dear to my heart.”