American Commercial Real Estate Legends We Lost In 2015
From tenant representation pioneer Julien Studley to West Coast real estate giant Doug Shorenstein and Texas billionaire investor Richard Rainwater, here’s a list of some of the remarkable legends we lost in 2015.
Bob Simon: Founder of Reston, VA
WASHINGTON, DC — Visionary and founder of Reston, VA, Bob Simon, who died at 101 in September, bought the 6,750 acres it took to revolutionize the model for suburban living after selling his family’s most famous property: New York’s Carnegie Hall. His last public appearance was at a Bisnow event this summer in the community he founded; he talked about his original vision for Reston (named for his initials, R.E.S.) with European-style plazas, connected trails, lakes and community space. Impatient investors fired him six years after the purchase, and turned it into strip malls and traditional suburbs. Fifty years later, the community is one of DC’s most prosperous, but only after everyone came to their senses and followed Bob’s original vision.
Doug Shorenstein: Set Tone for Tech Office in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO — Doug Shorenstein, a giant among the West Coast real estate community, died in November at the age of 60. He was the second-generation leader of Shorenstein Properties and was celebrating his 20th year as head of the private real estate investment firm. Some of the buildings Shorenstein has owned over the years include iconic structures such as San Francisco’s Bank of America Building; Chicago’s John Hancock Tower; Park Avenue Tower in New York; Hamilton Square in Washington, DC; and 1201 Third Avenue in Seattle. The company's portfolio currently totals 24.8M SF across the country.
Marvin Romanek: Major Developer of Downtown Chicago High-Rise
CHICAGO — Legendary Chicago developer Marvin Romanek died in October at the age of 84. In the 1960s, Marvin and then-partner Eugene Golub set the stage for high-rise development on Michigan Avenue by building 625 N Michigan. Other notable Romanek-Golub projects include 180 N LaSalle and 55 W Monroe. He also made a play to save the old Chicago Stock Exchange building, before pulling out of the deal. Marvin split from Eugene in 1980 and formed Romanek Properties, which focused more on acquisitions.
Scott T. Carey: Key Player in Development of Silicon Valley
SILICON VALLEY — Scott T. Carey, chairman of Newmark Cornish & Carey, died in August at the age of 82. He helped transform his firm’s commercial division into a veritable powerhouse in leasing and sales and it played an instrumental role in the growth of Silicon Valley, reports the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Deals transacted by the company’s brokers helped pave the way for the growth of numerous firms, including Hewlett-Packard and Intel. An attorney by trade, Scott had also been a US Air Force pilot when he joined the company in 1968.
John Zuccotti: Public Servant and Developer Who Help Resurrect Lower Manhattan
NEW YORK — After serving as chairman of the NYC Planning Commission, John Zuccotti, who died in November at 78, made lasting marks on the city as Abe Beame’s first deputy mayor, starting in 1975. The city was in a deep financial crisis, and John was instrumental in passing tax abatements that encouraged investment in crumbling loft buildings, which were converted into housing. He’s credited with playing a central role in negotiations that kept the city out of bankruptcy. When Beame ran for re-election in 1977, John put an end to speculation that he’d seek the city’s highest office. Many have said the decision was motivated by loyalty to his former boss. He spent the next 13 years practicing law, and in 1990 joined Olympia & York, which would become Brookfield Asset Management. As chairman of Brookfield, he played a leading role in the resurgence of Lower Manhattan following 9/11, including the development of Brookfield Place. A park in Lower Manhattan once owned by Brookfield bears his name.
Ebby Halliday: 'First Lady of Real Estate,' Founder of Ebby Halliday Realtors
DALLAS — Ebby Halliday Acers, who turned a one-woman residential real estate office into one of the country’s largest residential real estate companies, passed away in September at 104. She started her career in retail and then a Texas oilman lured her into real estate by asking her to sell 50 single-family spec houses. She sold them all and soon changed her career path. She founded Ebby Halliday Realtors in 1945 and the Dallas-based company is now the largest independently owned residential real estate services company in Texas and ranks 10th in the nation. The 70-year-old company, with 1,700 sales associates, participated in 19,200 property transactions in 2014 with a sales volume of $6.6B.
Richard Rainwater: Texas Billionaire Dealmaker
FORT WORTH, TX — Richard Rainwater died in September at 71. He made billions as a successful financial adviser, including big scores in real estate. He was the architect of the fortune of the Bass family of Texas, growing a $50M oil stake into about $5B through investments. One of his biggest wins came from picking up more than 15M SF of downtown Houston real estate during a mid-1990s downturn—properties he later flipped for two or three times his purchase price. After he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy in 2009, Richard's family invested $50M in the Tau Consortium, a group of international scientists devoted to finding a cure for the rare brain disease.
Jim Clark: Builder of Construction Empire
WASHINGTON, DC — Jim Clark, who died in March at the age of 87, founded Clark Construction, a name that has become synonymous with major construction projects in DC and around the country. Jim (left with Reznick Group co-founder and former chairman David Reznick, who we lost in 2014 at 77) started his career working on sites for Hyman Construction, eventually bought the company, formed a subsidiary (Omni Construction) and merged the two in the ‘90s to create the behemoth Clark Construction is today. Jim’s firm built 28 Metro stations, Nationals Park, FedEx Field and the Verizon Center, and has expanded to the West Coast with projects like Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. Clark is such a ubiquitous name in DC, it’s nearly impossible to spend a few hours in the region without setting foot in something he built.
Fred Sands: One-Time King of LA Luxury Real Estate
LOS ANGELES — Fred Sands, who died in August at the age of 77, founded Fred Sands Realtors, which grew to 65 offices and was the largest independent residential brokerage in California, when he sold to Coldwell Banker in 2000 for more than $100M, according to the LA Times. He then turned his attention to distress shopping malls, founding Vintage Capital Group. Through the years he built a clientele that included US presidents, corporate leaders and hundreds of Hollywood celebrities.
Norman Leventhal: Developer Who Shaped Boston's Skyline
BOSTON — Norman Leventhal, who died in April at 97, co-founded what became Beacon Cos with his brother in 1946. The firm helped shape South Station, Rowes Wharf and the Hotel Meridien. Perhaps most remarkable was the urgency he put on collaboration when building up his beloved hometown; he partnered with the government on significant projects, such as Center Plaza and South Station. On top of that, Norman's philanthropy is epic, leading the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, founding Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, and developing the Jewish Community Center in Newton.
Ahsin Rasheed: DDG CEO Who Oversaw Design of National Harbor
BALTIMORE — Ahsin Rasheed, who died in August at 54, was CEO of architecture firm DDG, where he led the team behind the massive DC project National Harbor. Originally from Pakistan, Ahsin spoke English, Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi, and he was a catalyst for DDG's international push during the recession, entering China, Indonesia and the Middle East. When he joined DDG in 1987, he knew very little about the city he was moving to, telling the Baltimore Sun in 2014: "I got a job offer and then I found out where Baltimore is. I did not have a clue where Baltimore was. I went to a library, found a map and said, 'OK, let's go.'"
Albert Quentel: Lawyer Who Helped Create Miami Lakes
MIAMI — Real estate attorney Albert Quentel, shareholder with the law firm of Greenberg Traurig Hoffman Lipoff Rosen & Quentel who had a hand in creating Miami Lakes, died at 80. In the early 1960s, he repped The Graham Cos, working with the Graham family on the development of 3,000 acres of their land that became the town of Miami Lakes in 1962. Other clients of his included Neiman Marcus at Bal Harbour Shops and Corporate Property Investors on its acquisition of Miami’s Southeast Financial Center and Town Center in Boca Raton. Albert was also known as “the dean of condominium lawyers” for his role in writing Florida’s first condo statute in 1963.
Julien Studley: Pioneer of Tenant Representation
NEW YORK — Julien Studley, who died in October at 88, came to New York at 16 with his family fleeing a war-torn Belgium. He founded Julien J. Studley Inc in 1954, blazing a trail as he built up a brokerage that represented commercial tenants exclusively. After selling his share of ownership to partners in 2002, he shifted his focus to buying and managing properties through Studley New Vista Associates. Studley was acquired by the London-based brokerage Savills in 2014 to form Savills Studley, a global firm that still uses the tenant-specific model that launched Julien’s career in real estate.
Bob Kern: Introduced Flex Office to Atlanta
ATLANTA — Bob Kern, who passed away on New Year’s Day at 81, introduced the idea of flex office space to the Atlanta commercial real estate market, meaning single-story buildings could house either an industrial or office tenant, or both. It was a concept that was taking off in California but before the '70s, no one in Atlanta had ever seen it, says Bob's son, Grove Street Partners' Kevin Kern. In the mid-'70s, Bob developed the 350k SF single-story Interstate Northwest Business Park in Cobb County— the first flex park in Atlanta. Bob had his hands on a number of notable developments sprawled across the metro landscape, from Galleria 75 to the Capital City Plaza redevelopment in Buckhead. Most recently, his company is spearheading an effort to develop a mid-rise ultra luxe MOB called Cornerstone Medical Office Center. A former Air Force fighter pilot, Bob began his commercial real estate career in 1970 with Cousins Properties, and then jumped on his own with Kern & Co.
Bob Edge: Founder of Dallas Office of Cushman & Wakefield
DALLAS — Bob Edge, who died in January at 81, was the founder of the Dallas office of Cushman & Wakefield in 1974 and is also credited with helping bring American Airlines to Fort Worth. He was vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield of Texas when he passed away. Bob handled some of the region’s biggest transactions including the ’79 HQ relo for American Airlines and the ’88 office consolidation for Mobil Oil. He was the '87 NTCAR Stemmons Service Award winner and a member of the Dallas Real Estate Hall of Fame.
Angelo Sangiacomo: Among San Francisco's Biggest Residential Landlords
SAN FRANCISCO — Angelo Sangiacomo, who died in December at the age of 91, was one of San Francisco’s largest residential landlords, devoting his career to buying and building local houses and apartment buildings. Those who knew Angelo remember not only his love and dedication to the City of San Francisco (he refused to deal with properties outside the city), but also to his family and his business, which were sometimes one and the same. Angelo built Trinity Properties, which owns and operates thousands of apartments across the city, and Trinity Management Services, where all seven of his children now hold roles. His family noted he refused to buy property unless he could walk to it or sell any property that he ever built or acquired.
Kirk Kerkorian: Changed the Face of Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS — Kirk Kerkorian, MGM mogul and billionaire real estate investor, died in June age 98. Before reshaping the face of Las Vegas with iconic hotels like the MGM Grand, Kirk was an airline pilot and high-stakes poker player. He shifted MGM from a film company to a hotel operator during his tenure—during which he sold the company for $1.5B, only to buy it back for $300M the next year. Kirk was the son of Armenian immigrants, and donated $1B to the country after a devastating earthquake in 1988. He was named an honorary citizen of Armenia in 1998.
Michael Graves: Iconic Postmodernist Architect
NEW JERSEY — Michael Graves, the iconic postmodernist American architect, died in March at age 80. He was known for his product design, including a tea kettle and pepper mill, but also produced architecture like the Portland Building in Oregon—the first major example of postmodern architecture. Michael designed over 350 buildings, was professor emeritus at Princeton and was one of the “New York Five”—a group of architects who shaped contemporary design in the '70s.