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As a little girl in India, Madhu Garlanka of Oak Hill watched her father build attractive little homes in run-down areas, and it struck a chord with her. “He worked in the energy industry, but he ventured into real estate, building homes and transforming neighborhoods,” she said.

Now Garlanka is following in her father’s footsteps. Six months ago she started real estate company Ambience Management and Holdings, and last month she just made her first professional purchase, a 31-unit apartment building in Richmond called Baker Atrium Lofts.

“HGTV is my favorite television channel,” she said. “There is just something fascinating about the creative aspect of renovation.”

Garlanka came to the U.S. in 1991 from Hyderabad in the south of India with the hope of living the American dream.

“There is so much opportunity here,” she says. She soon married, and with her husband started Information Technology services company Allwyn Corp. The company soon branched out with spinoff energy services company Allwyn Infra, which provides energy services to power plants in India, but Garlanka says buying real estate has always been her passion.

“I could see her passion for that when we purchased the land our own home sits on,” said her husband, Sudhakar Garlanka. “She saw this property which had a tiny outdated home on it, and she had a vision for the home we built on this property and now live in.”

Madhu Garlanka has a similar vision for Ambience’s 40,000-square-foot apartment building in Richmond.

“I did about a year’s worth of research and looked at about 30 properties before deciding on that one,” Garlanka said. “I really liked it because the units are very spacious and it already had a lot of upgrades.” Garlanka said she plans to renovate the building’s large atrium, perhaps installing a coffee shop.

“I want to make it into a lounge where people can hang out,” she said. “I also plan on renovating the outside by doing some hardscaping and perhaps painting the brick façade. I want to create something that comes across as a home.”

Garlanka said that through Ambience, she plans to make more purchases in Richmond as well as in northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. “I think the multifamily and office real estate market is picking up in those areas,” she said.

For now, Garlanka said she is taking baby steps with Ambience in terms of new purchases, but that she eventually hopes to be able to have the same impact in some areas of Richmond and northern Virginia as her father did in India.

“Being able to revitalize entire neighborhoods is my ultimate goal,” she said. “That is really my dream.”

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com