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Dadeland developer Herschel ‘Hank’ Green dies at 90

In the early 1960s, developer Herschel Victor “Hank” Green had a hunch that Dadeland would be the perfect spot for office towers.

There wasn’t much there besides a new mall nicknamed “Dudland,” because skeptical Miamians doubted anyone would ever drive so far to shop.

But, said daughter Elizabeth A. Green, an executive with her father’s company, “he had a vision that people wanted to work near their families, be home for a baseball game, go back to work and not drive downtown — have a better life.”

Hank Green’s hunch was on the money. The Green Companies, which he founded in 1948, built the Datran Center, Dadeland Centre and Dadeland Centre II, the Towers of Dadeland and other projects around a Metrorail hub.

Green, a Detroit native and U.S. Navy veteran who served on a World War II-era aircraft carrier and a Navy baseball team, died Monday at Miami Jewish Health Systems’ Douglas Gardens.

Born on Oct. 10, 1922, he was 90.

“He was one of the first people to see how Metrorail could be incorporated into our daily lives,” said Ron Shuffield, President of EWM Realty International.

Before Green drifted into the fog of Alzheimer’s disease in his mid-80s, he watched Dadeland grow into a thriving satellite city. He also built in Hialeah, Coconut Grove and South Miami, including the 43-acre Journey’s End Estates, a luxury waterfront community off Old Cutler Road.

His son, Robert Green, said his father “loved the way Miami was evolving into an incredible international city.”

Green was a past president of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, past president and Builder of the Year with the Builders Association of South Florida and the Florida Builders Association, and was inducted into each group’s Hall of Fame.

He chaired the Greater Miami Free Trade Zone, and was president of the Royal Palm Tennis Club.

In 1987, Green was inducted into the National Housing Hall of Fame, joining such luminaries as architect Frank Lloyd Wright and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“He was really touched by that honor,” his son said. “He took us all to Washington, D.C., for the induction. He considered it the supreme honor.”

Hank Green was “the architect of the whole Dadeland complex except the shopping center, and the engineer of public/private development at the [Metrorail] station sites,” said Jack Lowell, senior managing director of Flagler Real Estate Services.

. . Part of his strength was that he really knew that South Dade market. He was a pioneer in mixed use in Kendall.”

Ron Shuffield added: “He was such a gentleman in everything he did. Everybody knew his handshake was better than any contract you’d ever want to sign. He inspired the next generation.”

Green had been studying petroleum engineering at the University of Texas when World War II broke out and, according to his son, went home to wait for the call active duty. He enrolled at the University of Michigan, where he lettered in football, then returned to UT after the war and graduated.

Green got his start in construction digging ditches for 75 cents an hour and studied construction design at the University of Miami at night. He met his future wife, Nancy Flayderman Green, when he sold her parents a home after they relocated from Boston.

They married on Nov. 15, 1952. All of their children worked with their father at some point; Elizabeth is a managing director.

Robert’s Green Development is unaffiliated with his father’s company.

“He was a home builder, and aspired to diversify,” Robert said. “He built a small office building in South Miami called Sunset House that was very successful, then 7600 Red Road, then 7800 Red Road, which leased up very quickly. He realized there was a lot of demand in the market.”

Daughter Elizabeth said her dad was still going to the office into his 80s, but knew that Alzheimer’s was taking its toll.

“He used to say: ‘Get me some stem cells! You can do it!’ That was something he always said: ‘You can do it!’ ”

In addition to his wife, son Robert and Elizabeth, Hank Green is survived by daughters Carolynn Green Friedman, Susann Green Mittleman and Florence Green Rivlin.

A memorial service at noon Friday at Temple Beth Am, 5950 North Kendall Dr., will follow a private burial. The family suggests memorial donations to any charity of the donor’s choice.