Bill Holderness, Exchange founder and downtown Glendale developer, dies at 86

Bill Holderness, Exchange founder and downtown Glendale developer, dies at 86
Bill Holderness, who co-founded the Exchange, died on May 5. He was 86. (Courtesy of Leslee Rumsey)

Bill Holderness, former owner of Brand Development Co. and one of the original founders of the Maryland Avenue retail complex the Exchange, died on May 5. He was 86.

Holderness was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 18, 1930. He played football for the University of Oklahoma and was later stationed in Florida while serving in the U.S. Navy.


Around that time, he met his wife, Barbara, and together had their daughter Leslee Holderness (Rumsey), while in Florida. The family moved to Glendale in 1962 when, while working in life insurance, Holderness was asked to open a branch of Southwestern Life Insurance in California.

Originally operating out of downtown Los Angeles, he eventually opened his own agency on North Brand Boulevard in Glendale.

Shortly after, Holderness started to focus on the redevelopment of downtown Glendale. He bought the former Webb's of Glendale department store building in the 400 block of Brand Boulevard and later, the rest of the block.

According to his daughter, he saw Glendale as "the leading edge of the Los Angeles triangle" and sought to boost the city's profile.

"He was always a contributor," Rumsey said. "That activeness became very centered on the town of Glendale… He just set up his own shop and that's when he became much more part of the business community."

In 1988, Holderness worked with the city and other developers to create the Exchange, a collection of shops and eateries housed in red brick-lined buildings bordered by Wilson Avenue and Broadway on the north and south, and North Maryland Avenue and North Brand Boulevard on the east and west.

He served as president of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce and, in 2007, was given the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award. Holderness was also a past Glendale Kiwanis president, board member of the YMCA and Glendale Adventist Hospital as well as a Glendale parks and recreation commissioner.

By 2006 — facing competition from the Americana at Brand — Holderness sold his share of the Exchange, which included at the time a Tony Roma's restaurant and Mann Theatre complex.

Jim Philippe, former legal counsel for Glendale's Redevelopment Agency, recalled working with Holderness.

"My dealings with [Holderness] inevitably involved pleasant conversations with someone that I regarded as a gentleman, knowledgeable in his field and fair in his business dealings," Philippe said in an email to Rumsey. "[He] was one of the forces that made Glendale what it is today."

He is survived by his daughter, Leslee Rumsey.

Twitter: @JeffLanda