Swett, Bradford N.

April 06, 2005

BRADFORD NORRIS SWETT, a visionary real estate investor who over several decades led the rejuvenation of once dilapidated neighborhoods in areas such as Harlem, the South Bronx and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, died on March 31 at the age of 69 from Glioblastoma, the most deadly form of brain cancer. Throughout his prestigious career in real estate, Mr. Swett became known for his ability to transform undervalued properties in undesirable locations, bringing new life to his buildings and the neighborhood surrounding them. Mr. Swett contributed increasingly to community-based causes and organizations in the same neighborhoods where his buildings were located. For example, Mr. Swett founded the Bradford N. Swett Arts Academy at Henry Hudson I.S. 125 in the Bronx, which provides after-school programming in art, photography, music and dance. He also supported the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Mr. Swett also served as chairman of the commercial real estate committee at M & T Bank for more than 15 years. Under Mr. Swett's leadership, the bank grew from an unknown institution in New York City real estate with only a few hundred million dollars in real estate loans outstanding, into a significant factor in commercial real estate lending with a portfolio in excess of $3 billion today. Mr. Swett was born in Hartford, Connecticut and raised in Baltimore. He came to New York in 1958 after graduating from Harvard College, and took a position at Brown Bros. Harriman. Soon after he began his real estate career with Peter Sharp, the noted real estate developer of the era. Several years later he opened his own firm and started buying residential properties on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He expanded into mixed-use and commercial properties in Harlem, then in the Bronx and in Brooklyn. Although typically Mr. Sweet held properties as long-term investments, managing and operating the properties he owned, occasionally he couldn't resist selling - when others finally came to realize the true value of the properties he had purchased much earlier. He sold several pieces of property between 125th Street and 133rd Street to Columbia University for the expansion of its campus, for example, and sold others between 116th Street and 119th Street to the developers who are building a Home Depot and other retail outlets. In the l970s and 80s, he opened Irish pubs and a jazz club called Hanratty's in several of the buildings he owned. He also organized a group of investors who bought Mad River Glen in Vermont, one of the oldest ski resorts in the country. Today, his company, Bradford N. Swett Management, LLC, owns and operates nearly ninety properties across the city. A fervent competitor, Mr. Swett also enjoyed tennis and polo, skiing and golf. Mr. Swett is survived by his wife of 25 years, Holly Mc Allister; his three children from his first marriage to Eleanor Chance Burgess --his son, Bradford Chance Swett of Geneseo, NY; and his two daughters, Jennifer Chrisman of San Francisco, and Hannah Swett of New York; and his granddaughter, Lucie Swett. Mr. Swett also survived by brothers Steven C. Swett of Norwich, CT and Thomas C. Swett of Unionville, PA. Mr. Swett is the son of Mrs. Olcott D. Smith of Farmington, CT and the late Paul P. Swett, Jr., who lived in Baltimore for 35 years - from 1946 until shortly after his death in 1980. His father was treasurer of the Baltimore Life Insurance Co. and President of the Maryland Life Insurance Co. His mother moved to Farmington after her marriage in 1983 to Olcott D. Smith, former chairman of the Aetna Life & Casualty Co. of Hartford. He died in 2000. In lieu of flower, donations may be made to the Musella Brain Tumor Foundation, 1100 Peninsula Blvd., Hewlett, NY 11577. A memorial service will be held Thursday, April 7 at 3 p.m. at the Abyssinian Baptist Church at 132 West 138th Street, New York, NY.

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