Real estate developer Ed Linde is the man who built the fabulous office building at 111 Huntington Avenue in Boston, a building so sleek, so beautiful, and with so much light, that if you worked there, you’d wish you could spend more time at the office.
It is here that Linde has his own office, and on this day he is sitting in a striped armchair saying it is very exciting to have built scores of buildings in major cities across the country, including the Marriott Hotel on Boston’s Long Wharf and the Thurgood Marshall Building in Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Federal judiciary.
“I’m often asked which building project I am most proud of, and it’s like asking, which one of your children do you like better?” he says, adding that in different ways, he loves them all.
The son of a clothing manufacturer, Linde was born in Brooklyn 61 years ago where he lived in a midrise brick building. At age 10, the family moved to a leafy neighborhood of Westchester County, where there were several houses being developed.
Often Linde hopped on his bicycle and pedaled across the neighborhood to watch the construction. “I remember wanting just to see what was going on,” he says. Later, he loved watching heavier construction –– roads, highways, and bridges. He can’t remember what he thought, he says; all he knows is that he was compelled to watch.
In 1962, Ed Linde earned a degree in civil engineering from MIT, and then went to Harvard Business School, where he earned an MBA in 1964. He spent a year at Tishman Realty and Construction Company, where he helped build middle-income housing in New York City. Then he worked at Boston’s Cabot, Cabot &Forbes, a developer of industrial and office space, where he was vice president and senior project manager. In 1970, he and a colleague, Mort Zuckerman, left that firm to found their own company, Boston Properties, Inc., now one of the largest real estate investment trusts in the country.
The company owns more than 140 properties, including office buildings, hotels, and industrial spaces. Mostly, the buildings are in Boston, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Among them are Boston’s Prudential Tower; the Citigroup Center in New York; Five Times Square, a 36-story tower, and the planned 50-story Times Square Tower; and Embarcadero Center in San Francisco.
“I could never be a man without a city,” he is saying. “I love the vitality of city life and the complexity of an urban area. The process of developing real estate is operating in a city on the most challenging level.”
Sharing With Others
Ed Linde is convinced that MIT was instrumental in his business success, and recently he gave the Institute $4 million to establish five graduate fellowships in the School of Engineering. “I hope the students this benefits continue the MIT tradition of excellence and the tradition of using technology to solve problems that face us all, not only in America but across the globe,” he says.
“These young people have the potential to do things that will help everybody, and my hope is that one or all of them will use this opportunity to really accomplish something great.”
For all his business success, Linde says, the best thing that ever happened to him is his family. They now spend happy days together on the 200 acres of land they own in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, where they raise and train horses. “I get the greatest personal joy from my wife, my two children and their spouses, and my five grandchildren,” he says, adding that nurturing a business is not unlike nurturing a family.
The most valuable thing Ed Linde has learned in life, he says, is how to be patient when you want something to happen. It seems the more you push, the more things push back. “Don’t try to force something,” he says. “Let it happen. If you have established the right direction, and if you trust your instincts, things have a tendency to end up in the right place.”
For fun, Linde is now experimenting with digital photography and has taken dozens of family pictures which line the walls of his office. He is a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and he is also interested in politics but says he wouldn’t want to be a candidate for anything.
“Life is great. I’ve taken a lot of different turns personally, professionally, and financially, but I’m very satisfied with this journey so far,” he says, “and I really am very, very thankful.”