Builder of the Century

Compiled by John O'Dell, Times staff writer

John D. Lusk, who got tired of loaning money to developers as a bank officer and switched careers in 1946, was named this year's Builder/Developer of the Century at the annual Sumigarden Conference in Newport Beach earlier this week.

Accompanying the honor was a gold Tiffany & Co. watch.

Newport Beach builder William Lyon--the conference's inaugural award winner in 1989--made the presentation and brought the house down when he complained that he didn't get a watch with his award.

Lusk, 83, is founder, chairman and chief executive of the Lusk Co., a family-owned company that has built more than 35,000 homes and developed more than 4,600 acres of commercial property in the past 44 years.

The conference, which began in 1985, is a product of the Sumigarden Group, headed by real estate economist Michael Sumichrast and consultant Elm Weingarden. At Thursday's conference, Sumichrast, Lyon and others said:

* Although the frenetic activity of the late 1980s is over, sales still are running at a decent pace.

* New home builders are bringing prices down because the $300,000-to-$500,000 market has dried up.

* Buyers are tougher and more sophisticated than ever.

* And the local economy seems to be running strong with no threat of a recession.

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