Note: This story was last updated at 12:30 p.m.
Philanthropist and developer Guilford Glazer, whose company built the former Downtown Shopping Center in Oak Ridge in the 1950s, died at his Beverly Hills home in California on Tuesday. He was 93.
Glazer, who still owns property in Oak Ridge and Knoxville, was born in Knoxville in 1921. He was one of seven children born to Eastern European immigrants, according to a story in the Beverly Hills Courier. He studied engineering at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., for two years before joining the Navy during World War II, working in ship construction.
When he returned home from the war, Glazer entered the business world when he took over the family welding shop and turned it into a major steel fabrication business, Glazer Steel Corporation, the Courier said. Glazer Steel fabricated bridges and many other structures for the government of France, among many other customers.
“Glazer’s first development was a building in Knoxville that has been described as the city’s ‘first high-rise apartment building,'” the Courier said. “He entered the real estate business in 1951, when a company he led was selected by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to build a shopping center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. That shopping center opened in 1955 and not long after, Glazer picked up and moved to Los Angeles.”
Still remembered fondly today, the Downtown Shopping Center later became the Oak Ridge Mall. It is now officially known as Oak Ridge City Center. There is a plan to redevelop the 59-acre site as a mixed-use project called Main Street Oak Ridge.
The high-rise apartment building Glazer developed in Knoxville adjoined the University of Tennessee campus. He was one of eight Knoxville High School graduates inducted into the KHS Hall of Fame in November 2011.
After developing and acquiring numerous buildings in the Southeast and a few northern cities, Glazer moved his main office and residence to Beverly Hills, California, in 1960, according to Pepperdine University. From there, he continued developments as far east as Boston and Philadelphia and north to Chicago and Cincinnati.
The Courier said Glazer first made his mark in Los Angeles in the 1970s, when he developed the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, which was the largest mall in the country until the Mall of America opened. His company was later involved in shopping center development throughout the country, amassing a fortune that led to him appear regularly on Forbes’ “List of 400 Richest Americans.”
The Jewish Journal said Glazer was a leading Los Angeles philanthropist who was “well-known for his support of Israeli universities, including Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, among other causes, and for his friendships with prominent Israeli leaders, from Israeli Prime Ministers David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, to Yitzhak Rabin and Benjamin Netanyahu.” Among other contributions, he was the founder of American Friends of Tel Aviv University.
Several years ago, Glazer and his wife of 47 years, Diane Pregerson Glazer, created the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute of Jewish Studies at Pepperdine University.
The University of Tennessee has a Diane and Guilford Glazer and Lea and Allen Orwitz Teaching Fellow in Modern Hebrew.
The short biography posted on the Pepperdine University website said Guilford and his organization developed, owned, and operated the Del Amo Fashion Center, multiple office buildings, industrial buildings, and multi-use projects throughout the nation. With executive offices in Beverly Hills, the Glazer organization maintained offices in Torrance, California; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. At its peak, the Glazer organization owned and operated approximately nine million square feet of office, industrial, and retail buildings, the University said.
In 2005, Forbes estimated Glazer’s net worth at $900 million, the Jewish Journal said.
Born and raised in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood in Knoxville, Glazer told the Knoxville News Sentinel in October 2011 that he moved West because he liked the climate and the explosive growth.
A memorial service for Glazer is being held at 11:30 a.m. (Pacific time) Friday, December 26, at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple—Erika J. Glazer Family Campus in Los Angeles.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See the full Beverly Hills Courier story here.
See also this story by the Jewish Journal: Guilford Glazer, leading Los Angeles philanthropist, dies at 93.
See Glazer’s obituary in the Los Angeles Time here.
Here are a few more pictures of the former Downtown Shopping Center, which was later converted into an indoor mall but could be redeveloped as a mixed-use development starting next year.