Remembering “Big Bill” Zeckendorf, The Legendary Developer

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Robert F. Kennedy

Today…looking  back into Real Estate History is about……. “Big Bill” Zeckendorf,  (1905-1976)  The Legendary Developer…the ultimate dealmaker.

Forty Five Years ago this month William Zeckendorf  declared bankruptcy. But his legacy and what he built was just amazing…he was one of Real Estate’s Giants….” A  Master Builder”…A Real Estate Developer like no other.

When Sam Zell, Melvin Simon, Gerald Hines and Jim Peters all major figures in Real Estate were asked…What was the most interesting deal of the Century?  The answer was not a deal…but a man…William Zeckendorf.

This was a man of extraordinary ideas and vision…how he bought Real Estate, created ground leases and then separated the real estate interests….creating more value.

One of Zeckendorf’s biggest achievements was assembling some 75 parcels of land into a bundle in Manhattan that eventually became the site of the United Nations.

Here in Los Angeles he built Century City , he also developed an old airfield at Roosevelt Field on Long Island into one of the nations’ largest shopping centers.

Zeckendorf first exhibited his acumen with his astute management of John Jacob Astor’s $50 million portfolio…which after 4 years the value had increased by an additional $15 million.

The list of creative, gutsy and insightful deals was long and distinguished  including the Chrysler Building and developing thousands of luxury and middle income apartments in New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago.

Yes…it was difficult in the end…but what he built lives on…and to achieve is to first dream…. The Great Developers dream of building great buildings and..as a developer from the East Coast to the West Coast…William Zeckendorf certainly left a legacy.

Keep Your Dream Alive & Go Make It Happen!

Enjoy Your Day!

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One response to “Remembering “Big Bill” Zeckendorf, The Legendary Developer

  1. Daniel K. Meyer

    Zeckendorf shook up Denver in the 50s by bypassing the old gaurd and putting up an I.M. Pei designed complex across from the Brown Palace. It included an office complex anchored by a bank, a nearby a large Hilton Hotel and an adjoining complex for May D&F that included an ice rink in the winter. There was a connecting bridge where one could order an ice cream or a drink. The man was a visionary. The bank building has since been wrapped by a cookie cutter Philip Johnson buidling put up by Gerald Hines and 16th Street running past the Hilton/May D&F portion of the complex was converted into a pedestrian mall using an I.M. Pei streetscape design many years ago. Someone once described a term related to Zeckendorf, perhaps coined by him, for financing called Hawaian financing – it included a little of everything. I remember reading in his autobiography that he discovered that he was bankrupt when he lost the dial tone in his Chrysler limousine… He well deserves rememberance. And, of course, you know about the London Bridge story…

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