Philip Edward Klein, who built 30 shopping centers during a lengthy career in Baltimore real estate appraisal and development, died of pneumonia Jan. 28 at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla. He lived in the Cheswolde section of Northwest Baltimore and was 91.
Born in Mullens, W.Va., he graduated from Forest Park High School in 1934 at age 16. He went on to earn a degree in business administration from the University of Baltimore and became a licensed real estate broker in 1939. He was also a real estate appraiser and a certified public accountant.
Colleagues said that he became known as a "site man" and had the ability to size up what corners or intersections had potential for retail and commercial activity throughout the metro area.
"He had a feel for where the next wave of development would occur and a knack for tying up important corners with contracts," said his son, Michael Klein of Owings Mills.
In 1946, Mr. Klein acquired a tract at Park Heights Avenue and Cold Spring Lane. To finance construction of a shopping block there, he sold the Reisterstown Road portion to the Howard Johnson's restaurant chain.
"By doing this, he was able to get a bank loan and finance the rest," said his grandson, Daniel Klein, who is active in the family business, Klein Enterprises. "He innately understood the value of land. He could also do complex math calculations in his head, often arriving at the answer before those who had calculators."
Mr. Klein was also his own leasing agent and worked with the old Read's drugstore chain and Crown 5- and 10-cent stores to locate in his Park Lane Center.
He followed up that commercial success by buying the old Curtiss Wright Airport in Mount Washington and building the Greenspring Shopping Center. Among his many properties were Merritt Park in Dundalk, Cherryvale Plaza in Reisterstown and Cromwell Field in Glen Burnie.
"He was a dedicated visionary and effective leader. He was someone who pulled people along with his passion and his logic. What a mensch," said Josh Fidler, a Baltimore real estate developer. "Phil had his trials. But he persevered and always met life's challenges head-on with grace and equanimity."
He initially worked through the Service Reality Co. and became founder and CEO of Klein Enterprises. He worked at his office until late last year.
Mr. Klein was frequently hired by governments, businesses and individuals as a real estate appraiser. He helped with valuations for land and buildings at Camden Yards and in city urban renewal areas. He also appraised the holdings of investors Morris Goldseker and Harry Weinberg.
He taught courses in commercial and industrial real estate at the Johns Hopkins University.
"He was a lover of life. He was larger than life. He had a heart which is unparalleled," said Patricia Palumbo, an employee of his firm.
He was a past president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Baltimore and the Maryland Chapter of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers. He was a past trustee of the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Mr. Klein's charities included the Maryland Institute College of Art and the University of Baltimore. He named a fountain "Harriet's Haven" at the art school's student building at Mount Royal and North avenues in honor of his wife of 45 years, the former Harriet Jean Schlossberg, who died in 2001. She was a MICA graduate and artist.
He was also active in the Associated and the American Technion Society, a group that donates funds to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
He had a second home in Sanibel Island, Fla.
Services were held Jan. 31 at Temple Oheb Shalom, where he was a member.
Survivors also include two other sons, Jeffrey Klein of Anne Arundel County and David Klein of Port Angeles, Wash.; a sister, Frances Copeland of Las Vegas; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Another son, Philip Klein, died in 1985.