Former Zeppelin Leadership Launch New Development Firm
There’s a new development team in town, meet Natural Object. Former Zeppelin partners, Justin Croft and Chris Woldum have left the company, alongside their design-studio partner, Jon Hartman of Wunder Werkz, to start their own shop. The team’s reputation as an intellectual force and their world-class portfolio positions them to be statement-makers on day one.
“We were inspired to launch our company during this transformational moment in the growth trajectory of the West. We’re driven to cultivate human connection and sustain neighborhoods by harnessing the placemaking power of real estate, creating value for our partners and our communities,” said Chris Woldum, co-founder of Natural Object.
Grounded in development fundamentals and steeped in design, Natural Object uses a humanistic and context-sensitive approach to meet society’s evolving standards for a meaningful built environment. They de-silo the traditional development process by being hands-on at every stage, weaving a compelling narrative thread through all aspects of a real estate project. And they believe that projects rooted in thoughtful design and quality construction are resilient in the face of market cycles and changing trends. They are initially focusing on partnerships and communities in the Front Range, Mountain West, and the West Coast.
“Thoughtful design predicated on meaningful and grounded research can create an enduring and iconic project – something that is exciting and new, but also honest and native to its context. We marry outcome with intent, making sure that historical background informs material usage, that light informs color study and that the human experience is considered at each and every turn,” said Natural Object Co-Founder, Jon Hartman.
The team has a proven track record of transforming under-realized landscapes into sought-after and often-imitated environ- ments. Croft, Woldum, and Hartman have worked together for nearly 10-years. In their respective tenures at both Zeppelin Development and Wunder Werkz Design Studio, they delivered best-in-class assets including The Source Hotel + Market Hall, Zeppelin Station, Kabin, Flight, and A-Frame Club. Additionally, Hartman led creative projects on The Rally Hotel and the Joinery Hotel with Sage Hospitality, FoundryLine, a multi-family high-rise with McWhinney, and the visual language for The Sun Valley Neighborhood with Denver Housing Authority. Wunder Werkz will continue to service new and existing clients, and Jon will serve as a principal at both companies. Beyond their Colorado-based work, team members have collaborated on projects in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Colorado Springs, St. Louis, and Reykjavik.
The team was instrumental in defining the culture and aesthetic of the RiNo Art District, which is regularly referred to as the most “improbably cool” district in the United States. Justin Croft chaired the RiNo Business Improvement District, the largest BID in the state of Colorado and the primary funder of the arts in RiNo, and concurrently served on the RiNo Art District board from 2015 to 2020. He was named a Denver Business Journal ‘40 Under 40’ Recipient in 2020.
Croft and Woldum amicably departed Zeppelin Development after nearly a decade of serving the firm. “Beyond the breadth of experience we gained at Zeppelin – developing everything from retail storefronts to high-rise hospitality – Mickey and Kyle Zeppelin’s mentorship instilled in us that placemaking and design are fundamental to successful projects. Zeppelin has been widely known as the most creative developer in the region for the past 40 years and we are proud to have cut our teeth there,” said Justin Croft, co-founder at Natural Object.