Alumni duo develop new apartments
- By Thomas James Weaver
The word “Redstone” rose to the top when business partners Doug Nedde ’84 and Larry Williams ’81 hired a writer to brainstorm potential names for their new real estate brokerage/development firm back in 1992. Though both of them are alumni, and Williams, in fact, lived in Simpson Hall on Redstone Campus, that UVM connection was more coincidence than rationale, they say.
But the multi-faceted firm’s latest completed project, Redstone Lofts on Redstone Campus, brings together the developers’ shared UVM roots, their careers, and that name which, no matter the context, suggests solidity, history, and Vermont. The lofts are a 144-unit apartment complex that opened in August on a parcel of Redstone Campus just east of the residence halls. Open to UVM upperclassmen and graduate students, they add 403 beds of space to Burlington’s tight rental market.
The Redstone Group’s sign is a familiar one around Chittenden County, often attached to historic renovations and repurposing of buildings — Hines Lofts in Burlington, Chace Mill along the Winooski River, the former Saputo Cheese Plant in Hinesburg, the Shelburne Inn, and they’ve got plans on the table to incorporate the landmark Armory Building on Main and Pine (alumni of a certain vintage will remember it as Hunt’s) into a boutique hotel. Ownership of Bolton Valley Resort is also on the list of diverse ventures for the two local natives.
Redstone explored another direction with the lofts, their largest project to date. “The excitement for me was to do something related to UVM and on campus. Clearly, there’s a housing issue in our community, and I think this project provides a real asset to the university in terms of providing a good housing solution for upperclassmen,” Nedde says.
The new apartments, which operate independently of the university and are technically “off-campus,” filled up quickly. Redstone surveyed students about what they sought in a rental unit and met that wish list with spacious, furnished units; amenities like game rooms, theater rooms and common lounge space, fitness facilities, high-speed Wi-Fi and cable; and all of it a three-minute walk from the athletic complex and a CATS shuttle ride to the main campus.
Williams and Nedde say putting a large building on a fairly small slice of land presented challenges. Architects addressed it by designing the building in two main wings, each a subtle curve that minimizes the mass from the exterior. The point where the wings meet, called “The Lantern,” is glass-walled and includes the common space. The face of Redstone Lofts is a blend of black brick accented with blue, yellow, and white panels for a look that is contemporary, but also has a certain seventies retro thing going on.
Nedde deadpans surprise at the suggestion that it’s not a look everyone appreciates, then smiles. “Some in the community think it’s too bright or too bold. If we dulled it down, people would suggest we built a dull building,” he says. “You’re not going to please everyone.”
Williams adds, “I think it’s a building that pushes the envelope and pushes the norm in the area that we live. It’s not a traditional New England vernacular building; but, I think long-term for UVM it will be great that it provokes some discussion It is not a background building.”
While the exterior aesthetics may be in that eye of the beholder, there’s little debate about the views from inside the units. To the east are the sightlines one would anticipate toward the Green Mountains and a perspective on the new Virtue Field that feels like a stadium box view. To the west, the elevation of the upper floors offers a surprising, stunning sweep of Burlington treetops, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks.
“Step right up,” Nedde says as he stands at a fifth floor window and points out landmarks from Mount Abe to Appletree Point. “What residence in Burlington has a view like this?”
Given that Williams and Nedde reminisced minutes before about their own first off-campus rentals as a “hole” and a “hallway,” one might guess it wouldn’t have been found in the undergraduate digs of these two alumni who are helping today’s UVM students find something a good deal more comfortable.