Chicago Development Patriarch Alter Dies at 78

William Alter, founder of the Alter Group, one of the largest development firms in the nation, died Friday of complications from pneumonia. Alter, who was 78, also suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years before his death. Though in the 1990s he turned over the day to day operations of the Alter Group to his son, Michael Alter, the senior Alter retained the titles of chairman & CEO of the Skokie, Ill.-based firm. Born on the South Side of Chicago in 1929 and educated at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, William Alter (pictured) began his long career in real estate in the 1950s, brokering land to housing developers, and later developing housing himself in the Chicago suburbs–about 7,000 houses all together, taking advantage of baby-boom-fueled demand for housing in the suburbs during that decade. In south suburban Markham, Ill., he also developed Kingston Green, a residential community for middle-income minority buyers, which was unheard of at the time. Later, Alter expanded his focus into commercial real estate, achieving prodigious growth until the present day in office, industrial and health-care properties. CPN’s most recent list of Top Real Estate Developers ranked the Alter Group as ninth-largest in the United States; Modern Healthcare magazine ranked the company’s health-care development subsidiary, Alter+Care, ninth largest in that development specialty. “His finest business instinct was recognizing the potential of towns and communities throughout the country that seemed poised for growth–from the DuPage County corridor in Chicago to Atlanta’s perimeter market to the expanding Southwest,” said Michael Alter in a statement released shortly after his father’s death. “Just as importantly, my dad was deeply interested and devoted to mentoring succeeding generations in the real estate industry,” the younger Alter continued. “His commitment is reflected in the fact that the senior executive team at the Alter Group has been intact for more than 25 years. He always found time for anyone who wanted to learn, whether a colleague, a reporter or a recent college graduate.” Currently, according to the Alter Group, the company has about 7 million square feet under development nationwide. In the three years from the beginning of 2005 to the end of 2007, it developed about 21.8 million square feet. It also owns more than 1,500 acres in Chicago and other parts of the country. In Chicago alone, among many other notable developments in recent years, the Alter Group has developed 111 W. Illinois; the Amalfi Hotel at 20 N. Kinzie; various expansions at the Rush Medical Center complex; the redevelopment of the Chicago History Museum; and the renovation of the Pittsfield Building at 55 E. Washington into student residences. Alter is survived by his wife, four children, two stepchildren and 13 grandchildren.