S. Jon Kreedman; Real Estate Developer
S. Jon Kreedman, a longtime developer of innovative commercial and residential real estate in Southern California ranging from simple houses to major high-rise office and apartment complexes, has died at the age of 78.
Kreedman, who developed both the 30-story One Wilshire Building in downtown Los Angeles and Beverly Hills’ 10-story United California Bank headquarters in the early 1960s, died Friday in Los Angeles after a long illness, said his wife, Marlene.
The carpenter-turned-contractor first won national recognition in 1959 when he was named one of the 100 largest builders in the country by Fortune magazine. In 1967, the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration invited Kreedman to lecture on his entrepreneur role in helping to finance and build modern Southern California.
It was Kreedman who introduced Beverly Hills to high-rise living, when he built a 171-unit complex in 1956, the first skyscraper apartments in that city. Kreedman later converted the 308 luxury high-rise units of Century Towers to condominiums in Century City. The project was one of Los Angeles’ first condo conversions and was the largest in city history.
A firm believer in location, Kreedman often bought the land where he built his projects, and had them mostly leased before construction even began.
“Once we’ve decided where to build,” he told The Times in 1962, “my only guiding theory is to build a better constructed, more comfortable and more functional building than any of my competitors. In other words, the sort of building I want to own. Then I hold an interest in it for the future.”
An advocate of rich simplicity, Kreedman emphasized quality exteriors, lobbies and elevator systems in both commercial and residential complexes. His appreciation of craftsmanship extended to renovation of old buildings, including downtown’s 1905 Alexandria Hotel with its storied history and Tiffany skylight. Kreedman, a firm promoter of the renaissance of downtown, refurbished the hotel in 1970 during a hopeful push to spruce up Spring Street.
Born and raised in Detroit, Kreedman learned carpentry as a teenager working for his contractor father. He came to Los Angeles in 1941 and worked a year helping to build homes before serving in the military during World War II. He moved up in the building trade to become job superintendent, and in 1948 formed his own contracting firm, S. Jon Kreedman & Co. His first project was buying and remodeling an old Hollywood house for his office building--which he sold for one-third profit, prompting him to flirt with the idea of retiring by age 30.
He went on to remodel and then build homes, apartments, small factories and office buildings.
For 20 years, the developer and builder was also a banker. In 1963, Kreedman founded American City Bank and served as its chairman of the board. The bank flourished with the region’s construction business and at one time was the largest independent bank in the Los Angeles area.
But the good times did not last, and the bank was closed in 1983 during a string of bank failures across the United States. Kreedman lost his own initial investment.
Known as a philanthropist and supporter of Democratic political causes, Kreedman was named by Gov. Jerry Brown to the board of directors of the state Public Employees Retirement System in 1979. He was also a board member of the Los Angeles city employees retirement system.
Kreedman’s charities included the Variety Club of Southern California and its work with handicapped and underprivileged children, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the City of Hope cancer research and treatment center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Israel Bonds Organization.
In addition to his wife Marlene, Kreedman is survived by his daughter, Barbara; a son, Dale; and her brother, David.
The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.