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Norman Leenhouts had a wide impact

One word never used to describe Norman Leenhouts was “pretentious.”

When Mr. Leenhouts was taking Home Properties Inc. public in the mid-1990s, the investment bankers involved in the deal wanted him and his team to fly to New York City first class, stay in fancy hotels and wear high-priced, custom-tailored suits, his daughter, Amy Tait, recalled.

While her father did comply to a point, wearing a suit from Rochester-based Hickey Freeman Tailored Clothing Inc., he and the others with him flew coach and stayed at the Holiday Inn in Chinatown. Mr. Leenhouts wore a tie to the kickoff event that he bought on the sidewalk in a “three for $10” deal.

“I can still see Dad’s grin as he asked our banker if he liked the tie,” said Tait, chairman and CEO of Broadstone Real Estate LLC.

Mr. Leenhouts, Broadstone’s co-founder and its senior adviser, died Saturday at the age of 81.

He was remembered this week as a man who was not only unpretentious, but a leader in business who also was devoted to giving back to the community.

Joel Seligman, the University of Rochester president, knew Mr. Leenhouts for 11 years. Mr. Leenhouts was a life trustee at the university and someone Seligman periodically met with for advice.

Seligman described Mr. Leenhouts as an uncommonly kind and thoughtful man.

“Norm was a man of great ability, who built several real estate businesses with his talent, patience and ability to listen to people,” Seligman said. “Norm leaves behind a legacy reflected not only in his achievements (and) his commitment to several projects in our community, but in his remarkable family, who will continue both his great works and his great example.”

Mr. Leenhouts, and his identical twin brother, Nelson Leenhouts, co-founded Home Leasing in 1967. The company went public in 1994 and changed its name to Home Properties Inc. The Leenhouts brothers stepped down as chief executives in 2003.

Home Properties then transitioned its affordable housing and commercial real estate operations back to the brothers. Norman Leenhouts formed Broadstone Real Estate in 2006 with Tait and her husband, Robert Tait. Nelson Leenhouts took control of the affordable housing business and formed Home Leasing LLC.

In addition to being wise, Tait said her father was always humble and willing to share the spotlight. The standing joke with his brother, Nelson, was that they each had only half a brain.

The brothers were inducted into the Rochester Business Hall of Fame in 2002.

They grew up on their family’s farm in Ontario, Wayne County.

When Nelson and Norman’s father died at an early age, Tait said, her father had a hard time dealing with it and was held back a grade. He ultimately persevered, however, and went on to graduate from high school at the age of 16 and from UR at the age of 19. He became a CPA and licensed real estate broker.

The Leenhouts twins first saw the potential of owning real estate when they were both enrolled at UR.

They made their first acquisition in Wayne County, not far from their hometown of Ontario. They bought land and leased it to the government under the Soil Bank Program.

While notable real estate projects for her father over the years included Clinton Square, the downtown office building where Broadstone has its headquarters, and Blue Heron Hills Golf Club in Macedon, his greatest pride came from the teams and portfolios that he helped to grow at Home Properties and Broadstone, Tait said.

Broadstone Real Estate consists of two segments. Broadstone Net Lease is a private real estate investment trust that acquires and holds freestanding, single-tenant, net-leased properties. The REIT currently owns 407 properties in 36 states.

The other segment is Broadtree Residential, a private residential income

REIT with a portfolio of 662 single family homes, 528 multifamily units and four other residential properties in Western New York, Florida, the Atlanta area, the Greater Minneapolis area, Kentucky and North Carolina.

On the job, he served as a positive role model, said Tait, who worked alongside her father for over three decades.

Mr. Leenhouts saw opportunity in any setback.

“Every challenge was a puzzle to be solved, and it was always approached from the perspective of how to help others accomplish their goals,” Tait said.

Kept commitments

Mr. Leenhouts always worked hard and kept his commitments.

He was willing to roll up his sleeves and dig into the details, working around the clock to make sure that he was responsive to everyone’s needs. And still he had time to enjoy life, his family and personal interests, Tait recalled.

He never lectured or lost his temper and instead served as a coach and mentor, not just in business, but with his family and in the community, as well, Tait noted.

In a 1999 interview with the Rochester Business Journal, Nelson and Norman Leenhouts said their belief in servant leadership and dedication to doing business in a family culture—more than savvy decisions and deal making—were key factors in their success.

“I feel we’ve been very blessed,” Mr. Leenhouts said at the time.

Mr. Leenhouts also had a strong faith and love for his family.

“He was incredibly generous with his resources but in a very quiet way,” Tait said. “Many people and organizations have benefited from my parents’ generosity, but most of their giving has been done anonymously.”

Indeed, he and his wife, Arlene, committed many decades ago to giving half their income to charity.

A number of Mr. Leenhouts’ community activities and financial support revolved around the church and his beliefs, Tait said, recalling how hands-on he was in his community support.

For the Charles Finney School, for example, Mr. Leenhouts would knock on doors of homes in the inner city to recruit promising students and offer them scholarships.

“My father was always grateful for the blessings that had been bestowed on him and our family, and was anxious to share those blessings,” Tait said. 

Mr. Leenhouts was a member of a number of boards, including Roberts Wesleyan College and the Free Methodist Church of North America. He was also a community volunteer, working with organizations including the Open Door Mission, the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc., the Rochester Area Foundation and Youth for Christ.

A memorial service for Mr. Leenhouts is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Hale Auditorium at the Cultural Life Center of Roberts Wesleyan College.

1/13/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]
 

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