David Kornblatt, who went from renting West Baltimore rowhouse apartments to building downtown office buildings during a long career in Baltimore real estate, died of cancer Dec. 14 at Roland Park Place.
The former Harbor East resident was 89.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Lansdowne and Forest Park, he was the son of Harry and Rebecca Kornblatt, who ran baked-goods stalls at city markets. His parents, born in Russia, became interested in real estate and bought rowhouses they converted into apartments.
Mr. Kornblatt "knew everything about the families he rented to. He always knew his tenants, whether it was in an apartment or in his downtown office buildings," said a daughter, Anne Kornblatt.
He graduated from Forest Park High School in 1945, then served in the Coast Guard. He earned a business degree at the University of Maryland, College Park.
In 1951, he married Barbara Rodbell. They had one date at a movie while he was a college student — and after that date, he decided to marry her. On their honeymoon, he took his real estate books along to study for his brokerage license.
"When he set his mind to something, he was very thoughtful and he did it," said his daughter, a Northampton, Mass., resident. "It was all part of who he was. He was also very funny and knew how to joke. He conducted his business in a people-oriented way."
Mr. Kornblatt founded the David Realty Company on Hollins Street in the 1950s and renovated and managed homes and apartments in Hampden, Harlem Park and South Baltimore. According to a 2011 company history, his firm refurbished homes in West Baltimore through a Federal Housing Authority pilot project.
Mr. Kornblatt sold David Realty in the 1960s. He refocused his career to selling and leasing industrial and commercial properties. In 1963 he established Kornblatt and Fenneman with a partner, Lawrence Fenneman Jr. A year later it became the Kornblatt Company.
One of his early successful leasing projects was the Sonneborn Building, at Pratt and Paca streets, which had been vacated by the Social Security Administration after it moved to Woodlawn. He leased the large structure to clothing manufacturers and, in 1984, purchased it and renamed it the Paca Pratt Building.
"The building was an important marker of our family history. My father's father, Harry, once worked in it as an immigrant," said his daughter.
More than 40 years ago, Mr. Kornblatt leased offices in the IBM building and the USF&G building. With several partners, he built the First Maryland Building, now M&T Bank Building. at 25 S. Charles St.
He also bought buildings at St. Paul and Lexington streets and demolished them. In 1986 he began construction of a 900-car garage. When he felt the market was right, he added a 280,000-square-foot office, St. Paul Plaza, atop the garage. It was completed in 1989.
He later had the structure's 22nd floor converted into a conference and meeting level. The building houses the Maryland attorney general's offices.
"I got to know David nearly 30 years ago," said former Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. "He was an outstanding landlord, and I thought of him as a downtown person, a person who understood the relationship of the banks, courts and businesses."
Mr. Kornblatt, an early member of the Greater Baltimore Committee, was an enthusiastic proponent of downtown renewal.
"David was a capable professional who made the successful transition from broker to developer," said Robert Manekin, a business colleague. "He understood the totality of the real estate investment process.
"He was old-school and did business with a handshake," said Mr. Manekin.
He was a board member of the Downtown Partnership Management Authority and was active in the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors. He was a Center Club charter member.
Mr. Kornblatt worked at his downtown office several days a week until early this month.
He was a contributor to the capital campaign of the Beth Am Synagogue on Eutaw Place. He also established a fund for new music to be performed at the Shriver Hall Concert Series.
He was a past chairman of the Counselors of Real Estate Chesapeake Chapter and had served on the boards of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors and the Suburban Club.
Services were held Dec. 16 at Sol Levinson and Bros.
In addition to his daughter and wife of more than 65 years, who founded the B.R. Kornblatt Gallery on Charles Street; survivors include a son, Henry Kornblatt of Baltimore; two other daughters, Rebecca Kornblatt of Newton, Mass., and Sondra Kornblatt of Seattle; and eight grandchildren.