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Howard Hughes Corp. Regional President John DeWolf Dies At 63

Howard Hughes Corp. Regional President John DeWolf at a 2014 event in Columbia

John E. DeWolf III, a real estate veteran who most recently spearheaded the 391-acre Downtown Columbia redevelopment for The Howard Hughes Corp., died Wednesday after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 63. 

DeWolf joined Howard Hughes in 2011, just months after the Howard County Council approved the Downtown Columbia Plan, envisioning substantial growth for the Maryland city that sits between Baltimore and D.C. As regional president for Howard Hughes, DeWolf led the implementation of that plan with the company's 14M SF redevelopment of Columbia's urban core. 

In 2014, DeWolf celebrated the opening of Whole Foods in the former Rouse Co. headquarters in Columbia. That same year, Howard Hughes and Kettler unveiled the 380-unit Metropolitan apartment building, Columbia's first new residential building in over a decade. Howard Hughes has since landed major corporate headquarters in Columbia, such as cybersecurity software company Tenable and healthcare provider MedStar Health.

“John was an innovative thinker who not only understood the values of Howard County, but was able to incorporate these values into the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia,” Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said in a release. “He was a great partner with the county and the community and I am saddened that he will not be here to see the final results. We will miss him.” 

DeWolf also oversaw the major renovation of Merriweather Post Pavilion, a Columbia outdoor concert venue where he regularly enjoyed seeing live music. The venue was transferred in 2016 from Howard Hughes to a local nonprofit. In 2016, DeWolf outlined his vision for Downtown Columbia's future and how local leaders and developers should approach its growth.  

“Most important, the community should not be stagnant," DeWolf wrote. "New should be always on the horizon. Old and obsolete should not be allowed. Twenty years from now they should be working on 20 years from then!"

Howard Hughes Corp. Regional President John DeWolf at the Merriweather Post Pavilion transfer event in 2016

DeWolf received his bachelor's degree from Syracuse University in 1977 and his law degree from Syracuse in 1979. He began his career as real estate counsel for Syracuse-based The Pyramid Cos. and then worked as a real estate attorney for Melville Corp., now CVS. He moved on to international retailer The Limited, where he worked as real estate counsel before becoming co-director of the company's real estate department. 

In the mid-1990s, he worked on the retail team for The Walt Disney Co., helping it double its footprint from 300 to 600 stores in three years, according to his LinkedIn page. He then served as the head of real estate for the Woolworth Corp. for four years before joining New England Development in 2000. From 2003 to 2009, he managed real estate for New York & Co. He then managed his own consulting practice for two years before joining Howard Hughes in 2011. 

A publicly traded company with over 1,100 employees, Howard Hughes has developed major projects in New York, Maryland, Texas, Las Vegas and Hawaii. It has been led by CEO David Weinreb since 2010. 

“John embodied all that we stand for at Howard Hughes,” Weinreb said. “He had an intense passion for learning, a dynamic imagination and vision for all things impossible. We learned a great deal from him, from how to face challenges courageously and maintain a positive attitude regardless of the circumstances at hand. John fought vigilantly over the last several years while never wavering in his commitment to lead the region to dynamic growth. He will be sorely missed.” 

DeWolf is survived by his wife of 40 years, Susan DeWolf, his four children and five grandchildren.