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William Zeckendorf

Bill Zeckendorf - Bio

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William Zeckendorf, Sr. (c. 1905-1976) was one of the United States' prominent real estate developers. Through his development company of Webb and Knapp (for which he began working in 1938 and which he purchased in 1949), he developed much of the New York City urban landscape.

His most notable property acquisition, and potential development of a "dream city" to rival Rockefeller Center, was a seventeen-acre site along the East River between 42nd Street and 48th Street. In a now celebrated transaction in December, 1946, the prominent architect Wallace Harrison and Nelson Rockefeller bought the site from him for $8.5 million and Nelson's father John D. Rockefeller, Jr. subsequently donated this land for the building of the United Nations Headquarters.

Zeckendorf also owned New York's Chrysler Building, purchased the Robie House in 1958 before transferring ownership to the University of Chicago, and built the Mile High Center in Denver, Colorado and Place Ville Marie in Montreal, Canada.

In 1960 he partnered with Alcoa in a joint-venture relationship to create Century City in Los Angeles, California. Zeckendorf and Alcoa purchased about 180 acres (0.73 km2) from 20th Century Fox after the studio had suffered a string of expensive flops, culminating in the box-office disaster Cleopatra. The new owners conceived Century City as "a city within a city" with the arc-shaped, 19-story Century Plaza Hotel as the centerpiece. This joint-venture marked an increasing interest by large corporations with land "surplus" in order to create housing communities, industrial parks and office buildings; marking the first movement from traditional industry into real estate investing.

Before his company's spectacular bankruptcy in 1965, he became the embodiment of glamorous real-estate dealmaking which included developing Roosevelt Airfield (where Charles Lindbergh began his transatlantic flight), and helped to advance and develop Long Island University. Architects I. M. Pei and Le Corbusier worked for Zeckendorf's many projects.

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