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When Neil Bortz started Towne Properties in Mount Adams 60 years ago, he wasn’t planning on launching a real estate company that would have operations in four states and roughly 900 employees.
“I was just thinking about fixing Mount Adams,” Bortz told me during an interview at the company’s Mount Adams headquarters.
Before getting into the real estate business, Bortz, who will turn 89 in October, didn’t know what he wanted to do. After graduating from Harvard College in 1954, Bortz spent four years serving as a Naval aviation officer, touring the Pacific until 1958. He landed a job at Procter & Gamble Co. in the advertising department. But he decided to leave P&G and get his MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business.
One of Bortz’s mentors influenced him to make real estate development his career. Lewis Mumford, the social and architectural critic of the mid-20th century, taught Bortz while he was at Harvard for his second year of business school.
“He was spellbinding,” Bortz said.
They would talk after class and became friends.
The summer in 1960, before his second year of graduate school, Bortz helped out buying and selling older properties in Mount Adams. He figured he would buy a house there, fix it up and when he was finished with school, come back to P&G and walk to work downtown. But after spending time with Mumford, Bortz had bigger visions.
“I didn’t want to fix up a few houses in Mount Adams,” Bortz said. “I wanted to fix up Mount Adams.”