Leonard Frenkil Jr. learned the business of real estate from his grandfather, Victor Frenkil.
The politically connected contractor built several local landmarks, including the Royal Farms Arena, the Herbert R. O'Conor State Office Building in State Center and the Poly-Western high schools complex on West Cold Spring Lane.
"My grandfather would tell me every day, 'You learn how little you know,'" Frenkil said, "words I didn't understand when I first heard; now I tell everybody that works for me and with me. There is a lifetime of new things to learn, a lifetime of new things we just don't know."
Frenkil, now 55, is president of multifamily real estate at WPM Real Estate Management, one of the largest residential property firms in the Mid-Atlantic, which develops and manages 19,000 residential units in the Baltimore region and southern Pennsylvania.
The Baltimore native graduated from the Gilman School and then dropped out of the University of Maryland, College Park to work at his grandfather's firm, Baltimore Contractors Inc.
He left there after about 13 years for a job at the Time Group, a Baltimore-based real estate investment firm. Three years later, he helped found Washington Place Management, which merged with another company in 2005 to become WPM Real Estate Management.
In running the company's property management arm, Frenkil said, he relies on his nearly two decades as a volunteer firefighter and paramedic to keep a cool head in stressful situations. He'd joined the Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Department at age 16 and worked as a firefighter, paramedic and officer there for 18 years.
"It's just an amazing laboratory for learning for leadership," Frenkil said. "You get faced with having to make critical decisions every single day."
WPM's recent projects in Baltimore include the 520 Park Avenue apartments and Mount Vernon Marketplace, and the Fox Building, a 93-apartment and 24-studio mixed-use development in an old industrial building, set to open in the spring.
Frenkil now lives in Charleston, S.C., to be closer to his grandchildren but owns a home in Owings Mills and commutes to Baltimore for work. But he said he and his colleagues are as enthusiastic about their hometown and its neighborhoods as ever.