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CHICAGO-A local real estate icon died Friday at his Winnetka, IL home from complications from pneumonia. William Alter, founder, chairman and CEO of Alter Group Ltd., was 78.

Alter had a number of firsts in the local property industry, including as one of the first to use planned unit developments, to combine different types into one facility, to create build-to-suit solutions and to combine construction and management under one company brand. His firm is one of the most profitable in the industry, with more than $1 billion worth of office, industrial, hotel and healthcare projects nationally, according to company officials.

Though he kept his title, Alter suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years, and had turned over the reins to the company to son Michael, naming him president in 1995. Michael says that his father was excellent at recognizing the potential of both properties and people. “”My dad was deeply interested and devoted to mentoring succeeding generations in the real estate industry,” Michael tells GlobeSt.com. “His commitment is reflected in the fact that the senior executive team at the company has been intact for more than 25 years. He always found time for anyone who wanted to learn, whether a colleague, a reporter or a recent college graduate.”

The senior Alter started his career in 1955 selling raw land to residential brokers in 1955 and later formed Realty Co. of America Inc., which developed almost 7,000 homes in suburban Chicago. He was behind Kingston Green, the nation’s first residential community for middle-income minority buyers. Alter also built Downtown’s Pittsfield Center and Dearborn Plaza, Google’s Midwest headquarters; as well as the $35 million research and development campus for Bell Labs.

He also had a community activist side, acting as an advisor to former Gov. William Stratton on metropolitan planning, and serving on the Illinois State Commission on Science and Technology in 1983 and the Build Illinois Committee in 1985. He also belonged to the Urban Land Institute and served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.

Alter is survived by his wife, Evelyn. He is the father of Michael (and wife Ellen Sachs) Alter, Harvey (and wife Amy Klein) Alter, Jennie Alter (and husband Mike) Abt, Jonathan Alter, the late Rhonda Alter, two step children — Nicky (and husband Michael) Bliwas and Tony (and wife Kathy) Winski — and 13 grandchildren. Services were held Sunday.

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