Harold Schaeffer was an unknown celebrity.
The primary developer behind many beloved area shopping malls, thousands enjoy his work each day, although many are unaware Schaeffer created the shopping metropolises.
He died June 17 of heart failure. The real estate maven, of Rittenhouse Square and Gladwyne, was 89.
Born in 1927, Schaeffer grew up in Mount Airy. He attended Central High School, graduating in 1945, before enrolling in Temple University. He graduated from Temple with a degree in business in 1950. In 1999,
he received an honorary doctorate from Temple’s Fox School of Business.
After finishing his studies, Schaeffer joined the Navy Reserve, then served in the Army during the Korean War.
He returned home in 1954 and married Adele Kaplan. Shortly thereafter, he began working for M.A. Kravitz Co., a mall development and management company. Tasked with scouting possible mall locations and attracting potential stores, Schaeffer excelled at the job and took over the company with partner Arthur Powell in the 1960s. They renamed it Kravco and worked at the forefront of development for more than 40 years.
Kravco developed the original King of Prussia complex, opened in 1963 as the Plaza at King of Prussia with a handful of retailers, including Acme and J.C. Penney. In 1981, growing demand propelled the company to construct the adjacent Court shopping center, launching the complex toward its current status as the second-largest mall in the United States.
Although Kravco sold a majority ownership stake in its company to Simon Malls in 2003, its vision remains as the mall continues to attract prime retailers and expand its area. Other Kravco malls included Oxford Valley Mall, Montgomery Mall, Quaker Bridge Mall and Lehigh Valley Mall.
Schaeffer worked on a number of notable development projects outside of Kravco. A major leader of the Bedford-Stuyvesant restoration project in Brooklyn, N.Y., he spearheaded that area’s transformation into an urban haven for the creative. Additionally, he worked on the redevelopment of historic Faneuil Hall in Boston, as well as revitalization projects in Portland, Maine; Saratoga, N.Y.; and Bethlehem, Pa.
In his spare time, Schaeffer joined his wife in a host of philanthropic ventures. The couple was married for 63 years and was involved in the boards of many Philadelphia organizations. Schaeffer notably served as a consultant for the Ford Foundation and advised, among others, Penn Medicine, the Wistar Institute, the Academy of Music and The Philadelphia Orchestra.
He and his wife funded the Adele and Harold Schaeffer Professor of Medicine program at Penn Medicine, which supports a physician who serves underprivileged populations. In addition, he created the Harold Schaeffer Scholarship at Temple University for students in the Fox School of Business.
Beyond philanthropy, Schaeffer enjoyed time with his family and outdoor activities, including hunting, sailing and fly fishing.
“He was brilliant and to his last day, was excited about new horizons, about learning, sailing, photography. He was a lifelong learner,” his son Anthony Schaeffer told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Schaeffer is survived by his wife, two additional sons, Robert and James, a brother, Raymond, and five grandchildren.