Paul Marquis Kossman could look at an empty hillside and imagine a community there, whether as an airy office park, modern apartment building or bustling shopping center.
More than 40 times across the Pittsburgh area, he developed buildings that helped reshape the regional landscape, from the Parkway Center office complex and mall in Green Tree to Schenley Center in Oakland.
Yet it wasn’t only the design work that engaged Mr. Kossman, of Oakland, who died Nov. 6 at age 90. An architect by training, he delighted in the life that filled his buildings, his son Marc said. The family operates Green Tree-based Kossman Development Co., from which the elder Mr. Kossman retired as founder nearly a decade ago.
“The buildings that he built created memories for other people. People have experiences in these buildings that we never really think of,” said Marc Kossman, 43, of Upper St. Clair. “You meet someone at work. You create friends. You create memories. A lot of those things got their start with my father.”
Born in Canonsburg, Mr. Kossman grew up during the Great Depression in Pittsburgh’s East End.
He served on a Navy destroyer in the South China Sea during World War II.
Then he studied architectural engineering at Penn State University, returned to Pittsburgh and joined the family development business. He worked as an architect under his father, Curtis I. Kossman, who died in the mid-1950s.
By the late 1950s, Mr. Kossman had begun the current family company. Its holdings are listed at more than 4.5 million square feet of developed retail malls, shopping centers, offices, apartments, hotels and warehouse facilities.
“I think he will be truly remembered as an innovator and a real, positive promoter of Pittsburgh,” said Robert Powderly, managing director of investment real estate at First National Bank. “I understand we’re all in this for profit, but Paul kind of saw beyond that and really looked to develop properties that he would be proud of and that the neighbors would be proud of, as well.”
Mr. Kossman was a pioneer in his field, said Mr. Powderly, who has helped secure financing for Kossman projects. Business associates pointed in part to the Parkway Center office complex, billed as the first suburban office center in the Pittsburgh area and likely among the first nationwide. It began taking shape in the ‘50s, when offices normally clustered in central business districts.
“I think he tried to see where the market was going and anticipate where the market was going. He oftentimes was there before people realized there was going to be a need for development in that area,” said Herky Pollock, an executive vice president and northeast director for Los Angeles-based CBRE, a commercial real estate company.
Mr. Kossman also was known for designing his own projects, taking an “extremely hands-on [approach] in an era where most developers were outsourcing most of the work,” Mr. Pollock said. He credited Mr. Kossman for his philanthropy, which included support for the United Way and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
“He loved the city, and he wanted to leave his mark on it,” said Jeanne Bereznicki of Mt. Lebanon, a retired executive assistant at Kossman. She said the company “was like a family.”
In addition to his father, Mr. Kossman’s mother, Rebecca Kossman, and four siblings preceded him in death. Survivors include his wife, Agnés Kossman of Boca Raton, Fla.; another son, Curtis, of Shadyside; two daughters, Karen of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Deborah, who splits her time between Boca Raton and Pittsburgh; and four grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Nov. 9 at the Ralph Schugar chapel in Shadyside. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Greater Pennsylvania chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, 1100 Liberty Ave., Suite E-201, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222.
Adam Smeltz: 412-263-2625, email@example.com.