Morton Hoffman, 81, economist, urban planner

July 09, 2000|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Morton Hoffman, an economist whose consulting firm helped guide development in the Baltimore area for four decades, died Thursday of heart failure at Oak Crest Village in Parkville. He was 81 and had earlier lived in Mount Washington.

Mr. Hoffman's firm, Morton Hoffman & Co., conducted studies that helped shape the Inner Harbor's renewal and led to the construction of Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. More recently, he had worked on redevelopment plans for downtown Baltimore's west end.

"Mort was a brilliant urbanologist," said Malcolm Sherman, a real estate consultant and longtime friend of Mr. Hoffman's. "He knew so much about cities, and what makes them work, and what doesn't work."

Mr. Hoffman became interested in urban planning as a graduate student at New York University during the Depression, when he studied housing conditions in New York City, his hometown.

He formed Morton Hoffman & Co. in 1958, after serving as head of research for the Baltimore Housing Authority and the Baltimore Urban Renewal and Housing Authority. During the past year, Mr. Hoffman had worked from his home at Oak Crest, Mr. Sherman said.

His firm did consulting work in 27 states, a point of pride for Mr. Hoffman. He wrote articles for national publications such as the Journal of the American Institute of Planners and the Journal of Housing Economics. Mr. Hoffman also served as a guest lecturer in economics at various universities, including Johns Hopkins, Penn State and Cornell.

Born in New York, Mr. Hoffman grew up in the Bronx and received his bachelor's degree in history from City College of New York at 19.

He went on to graduate school at NYU, where he began his urban planning studies and met his wife, Janet Leland.

Drafted into the Army in 1941, Mr. Hoffman served as a lieutenant in England during World War II. Miss Leland joined him in London, and they married there Nov. 24, 1944.

After the war, the couple settled in Washington. Mr. Hoffman earned a master's degree in economics from American University and worked as an economist at the National Housing Agency and at the Division of Defense Housing Coordination.

The Hoffmans moved to Baltimore in 1948, six weeks after the birth of their second daughter.

In Baltimore, Mr. Hoffman was a member of Har Sinai Temple, serving on the congregation's long-range planning committee.

Mr. Hoffman founded the Baltimore chapter of Lambda Alpha International, the land economics society. He loved politics, reading, classical and jazz music, golf and baseball. Mr. Hoffman formed a poker club 50 years ago that still meets.

Mr. Sherman, a member of the poker club, said that over the years the group's conversations have gradually shifted from movie stars and careers to "everything from operations to arthritis." But it was Mr. Hoffman who kept the group organized and meeting every month, Mr. Sherman said.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Hoffman is survived by two daughters, Ellen Hoffman of Berkeley, Calif., and Constance Baker of Baltimore; a brother, Fred Hoffman of New York; a sister, Rhoda Hoffman of New York; and four grandchildren.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Brothers Funeral Home, 8900 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.

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