After more than two decades as business partners, two of Burlington’s most influential developers and real estate brokers are going their separate ways.
Even if you don’t know their names, Doug Nedde and Larry Williams and their firm, Redstone Commerical Group, have had a major impact on Chittenden County: They redeveloped the Chace Mill on the Winooski River and breathed new life into a dilapidated Shelburne inn. The duo turned the burned-out remnants of the Saputo Cheese plant in Hinesburg into a multi-use food and agricultural hub. In 2007, Nedde and Williams bought Bolton Valley ski area together. Their biggest undertaking to date — the $33 million Redstone Lofts student residence — opened last summer with 403 beds at the University of Vermont.
Redstone has plenty of projects in the pipeline, too. It’s brokering the Riverhouse luxury apartment complex in Winooski, where 72 units will come on the market in August. Come May, the firm plans to break ground on a new hotel on the so-called TD Bank block at the corner of Main and St. Paul streets in Burlington: The $30 million, 138-room hotel will incorporate the historic Armory at 101 Main, capping a decade-long renovation of the once-neglected city block.
Redstone currently houses 700 residential tenants in the greater Burlington area and manages roughly 1.5 million square feet of office and residential space — home to 153 businesses. Over the last five years, the company has acquired or developed approximately $80 million in real estate.
Williams and Nedde are diplomatic when they talk about their split, which Williams termed an “amicable separation”; both say it’s simply time to pursue their own ventures. Williams is buying out Nedde’s share in Redstone in a deal that will close by the end of the month. Nedde is starting up Nedde Real Estate. The pair will continue to share ownership in some 30 Vermont properties, including Bolton.
The breakup did come as “a bit of a surprise,” concedes Michael Monte, the chief operating and financial officer at the Champlain Housing Trust. Monte directed Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office from 1989 to 1993 and again from 1999 to 2007; it was in that role that he first worked with Williams and Nedde.
“They’ve been a strong, long-term kind of developer, and that’s good to have,” says Monte. “It’s good to have folks who don’t want to get in, get out, and you never see them again.”
Bruce Seifer, former assistant director for economic development at CEDO, points out that Redstone’s commitment has gone beyond brick-and-mortar investments. “They were part of the envisioning of what Burlington could be,” says Seifer, who worked with Redstone to encourage Dealer.com to move into a former brush bristle factory the firm redeveloped on Pine Street. “It’s not just putting up a building. It’s about quality of life. It’s been a generation of effort, and they’ve been part of that.”
“I think they raised the bar for the type of projects that they did,” agrees Yves Bradley, the head of commercial brokerage at Pomerleau Real Estate. “By virtue of the fact that they were both from the greater Burlington area” — Williams and Nedde grew up in Shelburne and both graduated from UVM — “they brought a unique vision of and understanding of our market, and where the market could progress.”
Brian Pine, CEDO’s assistant director for housing and neighborhood revitalization, praises the pair for their commitment to downtown, mixed-use developments; several big Redstone projects have focused on what’s known as “infill” development, which taps underutilized buildings or sites in an urban setting. Smart-growth advocates consider it essential to revitalizing downtowns.
Redstone is also versatile. “Some developers go out and do housing, housing, housing, housing, or metal buildings, metal buildings, metal buildings,” says Nedde. “I like doing a bit of renovating, repositioning older buildings, historic rehab, developing condominiums, developing apartments.”
Insiders in Burlington’s real estate industry say it’s too soon to know how the Redstone split will alter the region’s brokerage and development landscape. Williams says the client experience won’t change much, but the firm will soon have to decide whether to grow outside of Vermont.
“Over the last 22 years I’ve worked incredibly hard building the Redstone brand and its integrity, and I think it’s in a great position right now. Hopefully Larry will continue its good will,” says Nedde, adding that he has a stake in the company’s continued success. “I have a significant part of my net worth under management by Redstone.”
Will Nedde be poaching any Redstone clients? That remains to be seen; he points out that real estate is a business built on relationships. In his new venture, Nedde says he’s looking forward to focusing on acquisitions, development and commercial brokerage. His new company will manage a 21,000-square-foot office building on Hinesburg Road, as well as the 90,000-square-foot City Center complex in Montpelier, which Nedde owns individually.
“We approach things in different ways, and that has resulted in a very productive partnership that’s accomplished a lot over its life,” says Williams, looking back on the 22-year partnership. “Now we’re just at a point where we like the idea of seeing what we can accomplish on our own.”
The print version of this article was headlined "Divide and Conquer? Redstone Developers End a 22-Year Partnership".