I was very saddened to hear of the passing last week of Robert (Bob) Kramer, an architect, developer, pioneer of New Urbanism, and just all around great guy. In the world of development and real estate, very few people match their business savvy with a genuine personal charm, and a willingness to share their knowledge with just about anyone. Bob was one of those rare people. Back in 2000, one of the first New Urbanist projects I had an opportunity to work on was a project undertaken by Bob Kramer and Jeff Fleeman, in Truckee, CA. John Anderson, now of Anderson Kim A+UD, pulled the charrette together, and included myself among another dozen or so earnest designers. For so many of us, it was an experience in cutting our teeth in this brave new world of designing walkable communities. For Bob, it was the continuation of what he’d been doing for years. Regardless, Bob treated us all like seasoned and knowledgable veterans – a hallmark of years to come.
Bob made his name in the New Urbanist world with the development of Haile Village Center, in Gainesville, Florida. To this day, it’s still one of the finest New Urbanist projects completed, and certainly one of the most authentic new places built. A few weeks ago I was in Gainesville and took a spin through Haile Village Center again – marveling at how well this project has matured. Interestingly enough, this project that was started 20 years ago, has more relevance for today’s development climate than many projects built in the last 5-10 years. So many things Bob shepherded there will give us lessons for decades to come.
As my own career evolved, I had the opportunity to work with Bob on projects in Kansas, Nebraska and Nevada. No matter the project or location, the experience was always positive, which is not the usual situation in this business.
I suppose many of us get into this business with the hope of leaving some kind of a legacy, either built or personal. In Bob’s case, he’s done both.