Still Rolling

Redstone gathers no moss

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

Doug Nedde and Larry WilliamsLongtime friends and business partners Doug Nedde (seated) and Larry Williams have found what is for them the perfect niche with their commercial real estate and development firm, Redstone, in Burlington.

Ten years ago, writer Jack Fehr posed a query in “Redstone Rolling,” our story on Doug Nedde and Larry Williams, the co-founders of the then-5-year-old Redstone Commercial Group. “Can young, aggressive, like-minded men coexist over the long term?” A fair question. Many don’t.

This pair appears to have bucked the odds, and they know it.

“From my perspective,” says Williams, “the thing that’s interesting is the duration of the partnership. We’ve always pushed ourselves a little beyond where we were before, and I think at times that’s created stress that has tested our relationship.”

That sentiment is echoed without prompting by Alain Youkel, the managing partner of Lemay and Youkel Architects in Burlington and Montreal, who has worked with Redstone on several projects. “If Larry says black, Doug says white,” Youkel says with a grin. “I’ve often wondered how it works with them. We hear two ideas from them that represent opposite opinions, and in the end, that helps to raise the work to a better level. It’s tough, frustrating, but great,” he adds, “because they respect and value design, and that’s a rare commodity.”

The truth is, these guys have an ace in the hole when it comes to endurance. It could be called a family affair. They’ve known one another since childhood.

Nedde and Williams’ brother, Tim, now the owner of Exterus — formerly Vermont Document — were best friends when the three of them were growing up in Shelburne. They attended Champlain Valley Union High School and the University of Vermont together, where Nedde majored in economics and political science.

After graduation, Nedde and Tim took time off to travel through Europe together. Back in Vermont, Nedde took a job working for Rick Davis at the Davis Company alongside Williams, who had joined Davis fresh from UVM with a degree in civil engineering.

“So I’ve known him probably since 1975,” Nedde says of his partner. “I spent many afternoons playing at his house in seventh and eighth grades.”

Talking business, their high energy level gives the impression they’re still playing together. That’s not to say they don’t take their business seriously.

Since launching their own business in 1992, Nedde and Williams have grown the company from a two-man operation to a full-fledged, four-division company with 17 employees.

Donna Aldrich, Rae Rappold, Heather Ambrose and Linda LetourneauDonna Aldrich (left), in finance, was Redstone’s first employee 15 years ago. Rae Rappold is in property management; Heather Ambrose is in marketing; and Linda Letourneau, with the company 15 years, is a broker.

“We’re really a real estate company,” says Nedde, “with four divisions.” As it did in 1997, brokerage continues to constitute half of the company’s business.

“We have one of the larger commercial real estate firms in Chittenden County,” Nedde continues. “We seem to have gained a majority of the market share in our market.”

He believes that’s because of the company’s experience in its other divisions, which are development, property management and construction. There are six brokers — Nedde, Duncan Harris, Linda Letourneau, David Jacobs, Peter Yee and, occasionally, Williams.

“When we offer someone brokerage services,” says Nedde, “we can also provide them with vast experience in many other areas of real estate — permitting, property management, construction, environmental remediation. Basically, our other experience is thrown in at no cost.”

Williams’ focus is development, while Nedde’s time is divided about 50:50 between development and brokerage. Both have some oversight over the property management; and Williams supervises most of the construction.

Both are quite proud of their work in historic preservation. which is where Williams says his interest in development began. It was a key reason for his going to work with Rick Davis right out of college.

Several recent higher-profile projects bear out that interest. The historic preservation of the Shelburne Inn garnered an award from the Chittenden County Historical Society. “Larry and I are proud about that,” says Nedde. “It’s not only a kind of good investment, but also kind of an important project. We try to match good investments with important investments.”

Redstone is also building eight residences behind the inn. “We feel proud about it; we’re helping to transform Shelburne village, so giving back to the community where we grew up.”

In Burlington, the company is renovating a historic building a block from City Hall Park at St. Paul and King streets. Called the Hinds Lofts, it will feature 16 residential high-end downtown lofts.

Readers who recall the former clubs Hunt’s and Sha Na Na’s at 101 Main St. in Burlington should be interested in Redstone’s renovation of that property. “This will be a true Burlington landmark when we’re done,” Nedde says.

Lynne Harwood, Erik Hoekstra, Peter Yee and Mark KelleySince its launch in 1992, Redstone has grown from a two-man operation to a four-division company with 17 employees. Lynne Harwood is in administration; Erik Hoekstra is in development; Peter Yee is a broker; and Mark Kelley is in finance.

About five years ago, the partners bought the Hall Block at 210 College St. in Burlington, the former home of Nan Patrick’s clothing shop. They won a historic preservation award for it in 2002 and have since moved their offices there. “We love being downtown,” says Nedde. “I think it’s really part of a decision to be downtown and be in a community we invest in.”

“We like them,” says Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont. “They like downtown and village-center development and work with old buildings, and those are our two core missions.” Bruhn adds that Nedde and Williams are always interested in possibilities, “and when they move ahead on a project, they do very high-quality work.”

Redstone does not limit its work to historic preservation. The newly completed Marble Works Residences in downtown Middlebury received a Smart Growth Award last month. “Our main theme there was providing people a high-end living environment where they could walk to the local market, drugstore, grocery and work,” says Nedde. “We developed a new building within the existing Marble Works complex on the shores of Otter Creek.”

One project the partners continue to mention throughout the conversation is their purchase of Bolton Valley Resort. Both are avid skiers, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. “It’s a bit out of our core business, in a way,” Nedde confesses, “but we did invest in Bolton. It involved over 3,000 acres of land in Chittenden County within 25 minutes of the international airport and Burlington.” Bolton, he continues, is another example of how they like to invest in the community rather than making investments in New York or New Hampshire or farther from their core.

A signature part of the Bolton development is The Ponds, an elegant center that will allow them to attract year-round business in the form of weddings, retreats and parties.

“It’s a destination place where people will stay in our hotel, cater events and, of course, use the Adventure Center, an off-road driving school.”

Their commitment to community shows up outside business hours, too. Nedde is on the board of directors at ECHO, and has just recently left the board of the Humane Society. His interest in soccer — a carryover from his days on the team at UVM — keeps him supporting athletics at his alma mater. He and his wife, Heidi, have two boys who play soccer and hockey. Nedde coaches both teams.

Billy WilsonBilly Wilson works in real estate brokerage and development, two of Redstone’s four divisions. The other two are property management and construction.

Williams, who’s married to Rick Davis’ sister, Leslie, is involved with Mobius, the mentoring movement. “Rick was instrumental in starting Mobius,” he says, and I was one of the original founding board members.” Williams’ other brother-in-law, Tim Davis, who works with FreshTracks Capital, recently joined the board. Keeping things in the family.

“I think we’ve been fortunate to be able to be a little more thoughtful in taking on projects that really interest us,” says Williams. We sort of are a niche firm, or a boutique development firm; we very seldom do the same thing twice, which, if we had a financial adviser, he probably wouldn’t advise us to do that.”

He laughs. “We’re good at keeping it interesting.” •