Leon J. Panitz, the Baltimore builder who developed Harford County's Joppatowne, died July 6 from Alzheimer's disease at River Garden Nursing Home in Jacksonville, Fla. The Baltimore native was 89.
Mr. Panitz attended Park School and graduated from Baltimore City College in the 1930s. He went on to get a bachelor's degree from the business school at New York University and worked for his grandfather, Joseph Berman, learning building design, construction and real estate management before World War II. During the war, Mr. Panitz served in the Pacific as an ensign in the U.S. Navy.
Returning to Baltimore, Mr. Panitz became president of Panitz Bros. Co., which he started with his brother Stanley. They built more than 1,400 houses in the Baltimore area during the post-war era. In the 1960s, his company developed Joppatowne, an early planned community, with retail, recreation, schools and a mix of housing, some on the waterfront.
Mr. Panitz created Joppatowne at the urging of James W. Rouse, the famed developer of Columbia and a friend of Panitz.
"Mr. Rouse said, 'You fellas ought to build a new town,'" recalled Stanley Panitz, now retired in Roland Park. "He got my brother so excited about it that he went out and did it."
Mr. Panitz also served as a director of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Mr. Panitz retired to Florida in 1988.
Mr. Panitz's wife, the former Jo Ann Poisal, died in 1998. In addition to his brother, Mr. Panitz is survived by three sons, Leon Panitz Jr. of Florida, Tony Panitz of Baltimore, and Gilbert Panitz of Columbia; a daughter, Carol Gribbin of Florida; and seven grandchildren.
A private memorial service will be held tomorrow at Craig Funeral Home in Jacksonville.