Jack W. Blumenfeld, a man for whom the slogan, "if he builds it they will come," was a perfect fit given all the prominent real estate projects he called his and Philadelphia's, died Aug. 5 at age 85.
His many buildings dot the local landscape like a Who's Who of architecture. Among his credits is 1500 Locust Street, the Center City 44-story rental property acknowledged by many as a transformative edifice. Indeed, prominent developer Carl Dranoff — its project manager when it was built in the early 1970s — has called it a groundbreaking accomplishment for the city.
But that wasn't Blumenfeld's only achievement. There were Abbotts Square in Queen Village; Executive House on City Line Avenue; 9600 Condominiums in Margate, N.J.; Henry on the Park (7901 Henry Ave.); Main Line Berwyn Apartments; Place One in Plymouth Meeting; and Pennsport Mall of South Philadelphia, among others.
Blumenfeld's status was as a "builder's builder," according to Bill Seltzer of the Organization of Builders, who went on to say Blumenfeld "was the only one of us, of all of the big builders in Philadelphia, who used his own money. The rest of us formed corporations of protection, but Jack signed his own name on the dotted line."
He was, according to Seltzer, "known as the financial and building genius of his time."
Eric Blumenfeld said his father offered him some invaluable advice to be taken in business and in life. He told him, recalls his son, that "the truth is you usually have to fail to succeed. No one emerges at the top. Even those who are born lucky eventually get a turn on the wheel of misfortune. Anyone with a resume of accomplishments also has a resume of failures, humiliations and setbacks."
Father and son joined forces to develop a lifestyle complex along the Delaware River on Columbus Avenue that is now the home of the Sheet Metal Workers Union.
A graduate of Temple University, Blumenfeld grew up in the Old City section where his prowess as an athlete in a trio of sports — baseball, football and basketball — kept him busy as a kid.
He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, the former Jane Watkins; a daughter, Robin Blumenfeld Switzenbaum; two sons, David and Eric; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.