Battell Block is sold, repairs in the works
MIDDLEBURY — A Burlington-based real estate company with multiple holdings in Addison County’s shire town has signed a purchase and sales agreement to acquire the Battell Block, the largest mixed-use commercial property in downtown Middlebury.
Doug Nedde, owner of Nedde Real Estate, expects to finalize a deal this December to buy the iconic property at the intersection of Merchants Row and Main Street from the Battell LLC, headed by Bruce Hiland. Nedde said Alain Youkel, a well-known Vermont architect and developer, will be his partner in the Battell Block acquisition and subsequent renovation plans.
“I am very excited about the acquisition of the beautiful, historic Battell Block,” Nedde told the Independent. “I have admired it over the past 25 years.”
Hiland is optimistic the sale will go through without a hitch.
“Doug Nedde’s involvement in Middlebury projects spans more than two decades and he and his firm have a demonstrated commitment to historic properties,” he said. “During the next 60 days, the building and property will be subject to a variety of inspections that precede closing of a sale. We’re optimistic that the purchase process and the transition to new ownership will be uneventful.”
Nedde is no stranger to Middlebury, where he has already made considerable real estate investments. His portfolio includes the Battell Hill Townhomes off Seminary Street Extension, the Catamount Park complex off Exchange Street, and the Marble Works Residences off Maple Street. Nedde recently added the Weybridge Apartments complex off Jayne Court.
“Middlebury is obviously a beautiful town and the stability of Middlebury College helps with any investment in the community,” Nedde said. “It’s a great community to invest in, and with the economic stability of Middlebury College, the projects I’ve developed and invested in previously have worked out very well. I continue to look at additional opportunities in Middlebury.”
He also owns — or has a major stake in — other properties throughout the state, including the Hampton Direct Building at 291 Hurricane Lane in Williston; the TD Bank Montpelier Building at 90 Main St., Montpelier; Riverrun Apartments at 110 Winooski Falls Way; the Black Bear Inn in Bolton; Redstone Lofts at 165 Davis Road, Burlington; and The Cheese Plant building off Route 116 in Hinseburg.
“I was immediately interested when I learned the Battell Partnership was interested in selling the property,” Nedde said. “I moved relatively quickly to sign the purchase and sales agreement.”
Built between 1892 and 1898 by the legendary Joseph Battell, the multi-story Battell Block includes a combined total of 68,000 gross square feet of space at the nexus of Merchants Row and Main Street. Approximately 52,000 square feet of the complex is rented to a variety of retail, office and residential enterprises, including Carol’s Hungry Mind Café, Community College of Vermont, Edgewater Gallery and “51 Main at the Bridge.” The block is almost fully rented right now, according to Nedde.
“The core uses I believe will remain the same — retail, service, office and residential,” Nedde said of the property. “My hope is that our future investments in the Battell Block will ensure that the downtown will continue to expand its vibrant environment during the day and night.”
The Battell Block is currently assessed by the town at $1,849,500, according to town records. The annual property tax bill is just under $49,000.
The current owners have controlled the Battell Block for the past three decades.
“I think Bruce Hiland and his partners have done a tremendous job caring for this building,” Nedde said. “I view this as an opportunity. I feel a sense of responsibility to continue to care for the building and make it a vital part of Middlebury’s downtown. So I look forward to adding some value and continuing the good work the partnership has done in the past.”
It was around three years ago that the Battell LLC partners decided to begin listening to offers for the property. It was a decision that Hiland said was independent of concerns over the possible disruption that a looming rail bridges replacement project will bring to downtown Middlebury, beginning next spring. Replacement of the Main Street and Merchants Row spans is expected to take around two years, during which downtown merchants, residents and shoppers will contend with noise, dust, detours and artificial light at night.
Nedde is, of course, aware of the impending project, which did not dissuade him from pursuing ownership of the Battell Block. Vermont Agency of Transportation officials updated the Middlebury selectboard this week on the project timetable and construction plans (see related story, Page 1A).
“We’re still learning about the impact of the project and the timing,” Nedde said. “I expect we’ll be able to work with that project, and the Battell Block will continue to function well during that construction period.”
The prospective new owners have already been sizing up repairs to the multi-story property.
“We’re going to be exploring improving the residential portion of the property; that will be our main focus,” Nedde said, adding, “we’re not clear yet whether the number of bedrooms will increase and whether configurations will change.”
The transition in ownership will not affect current tenants, according to Nedde.
“We’ll be assuming all the current leases,” he said. “We have no plans to make any changes in the leases.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]