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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

Jerry Snyder: A Developer to the Very End

Carl McLarand, chairman and chief executive of Irvine-based MVE & Partners Inc., didn’t just consider Jerome (Jerry) Snyder one of the top developers in Los Angeles.

He also considered him a friend.

“Jerry was an amazing man, very street smart. He could see through the fuzz of life and make a determination of what really made sense,” McLarand said. “He was a quality guy and always wanted to build really quality work.”

Snyder, the founding force behind J.H. Snyder Co., died at his home in Bel Air on May 8 after a short battle with cancer. He was 90.

McLarand worked with Snyder on a handful of projects, including two of Snyder’s best-known efforts: the Wilshire Courtyard in Miracle Mile and the Water Garden in Santa Monica.

“You learned a lot from just hanging around him,” McLarand said of Snyder, his friend for more than 30 years.

And while Snyder may be gone, in a way McLarand is still working with him. MVE & Partners is engaged on the Residences at Wilshire Curson, a 20-story apartment building in Miracle Mile that is one of Snyder’s final projects. It’s scheduled to open by the end of 2020.

Lengthy legacy

Over the course of his long career, Snyder developed tens of thousands of single-family homes and condos, as well as millions of square feet of Class A office space.

Among his signature projects are the SAG-AFTRA Plaza in Miracle Mile, The River at Rancho Mirage and Coronado Shores in San Diego.

“He created his own legacy from an early age. He is very well respected in the industry and has built some of the best products that have been delivered to the market,” said Patrick Church, a managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

Church has leased a handful of Snyder’s projects.

“People like that are hard to replace,” Church said. “He’s been an icon in the market for a long time, and his legacy will live on.”

Friends remember Snyder as more than just a real estate icon.

David Irmer, president and founder of Innisfree Cos., was a close friend of Snyder’s for 50 years. They frequently traveled together, and Irmer was even in Snyder’s wedding.

“It’s like losing a brother,” Irmer said of Snyder’s passing. “He was a big brother, he was a mentor and he was a best pal.”

Starting off

Snyder was inducted into the Business Journal’s Hall of Fame in 2019, but he got his start nearly 70 years before.

At a young age, Snyder began working with his father, who was a carpenter and contractor. Snyder attended UCLA for a year and was briefly in the U.S. Navy.

He soon decided to strike out on his own, purchasing a truck and doing remodeling work. He named his company Snyder & Son, leading people to believe there was someone older in charge.

Snyder soon became busy with home projects. He then moved onto small subdivisions and, before long, developed an 80-home community in Orange County.

By age 22, Snyder was building 2,000 homes a year.

In 1949, he founded J.H. Snyder Co. He was the firm’s senior partner. In the 1970s, the company changed direction to work on the commercial projects Snyder has since become known for.

Some of his recent projects include 1601 Vine in Hollywood, which is leased by WeWork Cos. Inc.

At J.H. Snyder Co., Snyder was partners with Lew Geyser and Michael Wise for 50 years. Lon Snyder, a third partner, joined full time in 1986. Milton Swimmer and Cliff Goldstein were earlier partners of Snyder’s.

Goldstein, who went on to co-found Brentwood-based GPI Cos. and still owns properties with Snyder, called Snyder his “mentor.”

“He was one of the last iconic builders of his generation,” Goldstein said. “This was the day when the developer really was the driving force behind real estate development. His personality and his own drive and the way he thought about development really was reflective in what he ended up doing. Each of his projects was a direct reflection of him, not some corporate philosophy.”

Goldstein said Snyder worked as long as he could.

“The idea of retirement was not in his lexicon. True to his word, he was developing up until the very end,” Goldstein said. “Who at 89 commences a major high-rise residential tower in Miracle Mile? It’s not seen.”

Snyder attributed some of J.H. Snyder Co.’s success to its ability to act as its own contractor, which gave the company more control over its projects.

Goldstein added that Snyder had a general contractor’s license, something that made him unique among his peers. He also called Snyder a “genius in entitlements” who was able to get projects through by taking a proactive approach and engaging with the community.

Industry executives remember Snyder’s love of design.

“You could show him a piece of ground, and he could locate his dream on that site,” Irmer said. “He starts to design things in his head.”

Irmer added that the two would frequently go to the Four Seasons in Hawaii and “create things over a week’s time.”

Snyder simply loved to work.

“He was going to the office at 90 years of age and spending a full day at the office and loving every minute of it,” said Irmer, adding that Snyder would be bored if he even had one free minute.

Outside of work

When he wasn’t working, Snyder loved to travel and exercise.

Snyder and Irmer would go annually to the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the south of France.

“We went every year,” Irmer said. “He had room 637, and I had room 636.”

Irmer added that they would get a cabana and spend two weeks “having the best time ever” with nightly visits to the champagne lounge.

Snyder’s and Irmer’s families also took frequent yacht voyages, as well as trips to Europe and Hawaii.

McLarand often joined Snyder on his travels with Irmer.

Snyder, Irmer and their wives would often spend Thanksgiving together in places like New York.

A few years ago, the four of them saw “a silly play called ‘Hamilton.’”

“We were all kind of poo-pooing it,” Irmer said. “We went to ‘Hamilton,’ and of course it was the best thing we ever saw in our life, and we laughed about that for years.”

Snyder was also a respected philanthropist.

Irmer recalled that one year he brought Snyder to a friend’s birthday party. The friend was a doctor who formed a medical group focused on cleft palate surgeries in third-world countries.

Snyder went home and wrote the friend a $25,000 check, which he did every year after.

“He would do things like that, I can’t tell you how many times,” Irmer said.

Snyder and his wife have contributed $3 million to endow three faculty chairs at the Stein Eye Institute and established the Jerome Snyder Systems Building and Housing Research Fellowship at the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, which has allowed 40 fellows to conduct research.

“Anything Jerry did, he did it the best, he did it with style, he did it with great panache and grace,” Irmer said of his legacy.

Snyder is survived by his wife, Joan, and children Wendy Snyder, William Snyder and Lon Snyder.

Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk is a managing editor at the Los Angeles Business Journal and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. She previously covered real estate for the Los Angeles Business Journal. She has done work with publications including The Orange County Register, The Real Deal and doityourself.com.

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