By Brett Widness
URBAN LAND INSTITUTE, April 20, 2015
Longtime Urban Land Institute leader A. Alfred Taubman passed away following a heart attack on April 17, 2015. He was 91.
Taubman, a real estate industry icon who pioneered the development of enclosed shopping malls, had been a ULI Foundation governor since 1985. He served as a trustee from 1980 through 1992, and was a member of the ULI Advisory Services committee from 1995 to 1996.
In 1950, he founded the Taubman Company in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The company quickly expanded from the development of freestanding businesses to shopping centers, including the development of Arborland Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of the nation’s early suburban shopping malls, which opened in 1961.
Taubman was the founding chairman of the advisory board of University of Pennsylvania’s Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center. In 2004, during a presentation at the center’s spring meeting, he recalled taking several potential business partners early in his career to a prospective development site beyond the outskirts of Detroit. After a few missed turns, the group pulled up next to a field surrounded by other fields. “I told them,” he said, “that this would be a good place for a shopping center.”
Taubman envisioned how the movement to the suburbs would affect how people shop, and his development of retail centers offering a cluster of stores with parking in front left a lasting imprint on American society. Currently, Taubman Centers, part of the Taubman Company, operates 21 high-quality retail properties in the United States with four additional ones either being developed or planned; the company operates one property in Asia, with four additional properties being developed or planned.
Mr. Taubman’s son and Taubman Centers Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Robert S. Taubman said in a note to company employees, “This company and all that you stand for were among the greatest joys of his life…He was so proud of what this wonderful company he founded 65 years ago has accomplished.”
“Al Taubman was one of real estate’s true visionaries,” said Patrick L. Phillips, ULI’s global chief executive officer. “He anticipated how American cities were growing, and how consumer behavior was changing, and he developed innovative projects that met those needs. He also exemplified ULI’s tradition of giving back to his industry, to the Institute, and, above all, to his community.”
In 2005, Taubman received ULI Michigan’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which is awarded to individuals whose work in the real estate industry and whose community involvement reflects ULI’s mission.
He donated hundreds of millions of dollars to universities, hospitals, and museums. He established the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan Medical School, the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School, and Brown University’s Public Policy and American Institutions program. He was the principal benefactor of the University of Michigan’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Health Care Center, and Medical Library—each of which bears his name—and served as a trustee of Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, whose A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education opened in September 2009.
The ULI Foundation will be making a donation to the Detroit Institute of Arts to honor Taubman’s memory.
Below: A. Alfred Taubman, founder of Taubman Centers, Inc., accepting the ULI Michigan Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.