Urban Land Institute leader Matthew Bucksbaum, co-founder of General Growth Properties, died Nov. 24, 2013, of respiratory failure at age 87.
A ULI Foundation Governor, Mr. Bucksbaum’s generous support for the Institute included an endowment in 2001 from the Matthew and Carolyn Bucksbaum Family Foundation made in conjunction with the Martin Bucksbaum Family Foundation to support a ULI senior resident fellow for retail and entertainment. Through the endowment, the Bucksbaum family sought to enhance ULI’s ability to conduct research and education efforts involving retail and urban entertainment, including best practices in design and development. ULI staff executive Maureen McAvey is the Bucksbaum Family Chair for Retail, overseeing the Institute’s program of work on retail-related issues and trends.
Mr. Bucksbaum was a longtime member of ULI’s Commercial and Retail Development Council, serving on the green, silver and gold flights of the council for many years. He was also a dedicated member of the ULI Chicago District Council, which honored his service by naming him the recipient of its 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award.
A Pioneer of the Shopping Center Industry
Before Mr. Bucksbaum’s retirement as chief executive officer of General Growth Properties in 1999, and as chairman in 2006, the publicly held company was one of the largest owners and developers of shopping centers in the world, numbering over 200 malls and 200 million square feet of space.
The company was the outgrowth of a family-owned grocery business in Marshalltown, Iowa, where Mr. Bucksbaum grew up and attended school. He was the first in his family to graduate from college with a four-year degree from the University of Iowa. He majored in economics, graduated cum laude, and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He was a member of the Phi Epsilon Pi social fraternity. The university honored him as one of its outstanding alumni.
The real estate development company was founded in 1954 under the leadership of Mr. Bucksbaum and his brothers Maurice and Martin. The Bucksbaum brothers were among a handful of families who are recognized today as the pioneers of the shopping center industry. Matthew Bucksbaum became a member of the board of the International Council of Shopping Centers in 1986, and was named the organization’s worldwide chairman in 1992. Generally soft-spoken and thoughtful, he lived by the principal “My good name is the most precious thing I have” and was known for his integrity.
From 1959 to 2000, he lived with his family in Des Moines, Iowa. The family also lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they built the state’s first shopping center, and their second center, in Bettendorf, Iowa, was the first to feature a department store anchor at a time of rapid expansion in the shopping mall industry. After building malls in other Iowa communities in which Younkers, an Iowa department store chain, was the anchor tenant, the board chairman of Younkers asked the Bucksbaums to move to Des Moines in 1964 to assume the management of a publicly held real estate firm. The public listing of its stock broadened the company’s financial base and permitted it rapid expansion, taking the name General Growth Properties in 1970.
Passionate About Music and Medicine
The Bucksbaums became part-time residents of Aspen, Colorado, in the early 1970s, drawn there by the winter and the summer beauty, as well as the Aspen Music Festival. After years of regularly enjoying summer concerts there, Mr. Bucksbaum was invited to become a trustee of the Festival and later served two terms as the chairman of its board. He oversaw the building of a new concert tent during his chairmanship. It provided a concert hall-like summer venue for Festival events.
After moving to Chicago, he was asked to join the board of the Chicago Symphony Association that was in the midst of renovating Symphony Hall. He became deeply interested in the medical school of the University of Chicago and with his wife co-founded the Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence.
Additional interests included providing scholarship opportunities for young people in the varied fields of music and higher education, and initiatives to increase diversity within the shopping center-related industry.
Survivors and Memorials
Mr. Bucksbaum is survived by his wife of 61 years, Carolyn Swartz Bucksbaum, and children, John Bucksbaum (Jacolyn) and Ann B. Friedman (Thomas L.) as well as grandchildren Orly D. Friedman and Natalie F. Winston (Daniel) and Max and Eli Bucksbaum, and his brother, Maurice Bucksbaum (Dorothy). Preceding him in death was his brother Martin.
Memorial contributions may be given to the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Bucksbaum Institute For Clinical Excellence at the University of Chicago, or a charity of choice.