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Read articles and learn more about the Cincinnati Chamber through our related news articles

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Recognize & Celebrate businesses & people

Great Living Cincinnatians: Honorees

Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.

Neil K. Bortz

Awarded In 2006

1932 –


Neil Bortz has never been afraid of an uphill challenge. In fact, he built his career on one.

While Towne Properties – the company he owns and manages with his brother Arn and partners Marvin Rosenberg and Phil Montanus – has developed residential and commercial properties across Cincinnati, Dayton, Lexington and Florida. The company will always be identified with its initial foothold in Cincinnati’s charming, hillside village of Mount Adams.

The Avondale native remembers his late father Philip driving him as a child through the narrow and winding streets of Mount Adams on leisurely Sunday trips. “He clearly planted a seed about Mount Adams,” Bortz says. And a fruitful seed it was, as Towne, beginning in the early 60’s began to put roots down on the hill. Today Towne has more than 100 residential units and more than 100,000 square fee of commercial property in the Mount Adams portfolio.

Bortz’s passion for developing Mount Adams began to burn brightly following four years of service as a Naval Aviation Officer touring the Pacific from 1954-58. The 1950 Walnut Hills High School graduate had returned home to Cincinnati to explore career opportunities and put his 1954 Bachelor Degree from Harvard College to work – and as he says, “fortunately” landed a position in P&G’s advertising department in 1958.

Still uncertain as to his ultimate career goals, Bortz decided to leave Procter and invest in “a little insurance policy” – an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. So back to Boston he went. During the summer between his two years there, he teamed up with Rosenberg and former Walnut Hills classmate and Harvard roommate, Stanley Aronoff, to purchase a $6,000 house on Carney Street in Mount Adams with money loaned to him by his Uncle Cap. Bortz recalls that the house was “falling down, boarded up with its view blocked by an outhouse. I was going to somehow fix it up and be able to walk to work when I returned to Procter after getting my masters.”

In the fall of second year at Business School the Carney house was sold for $12,000 and a light went on in Neil’s head. While still in school, the fledging real estate developers decided to buy another fixer-upper for $5,500. Before long the vision of a new and vibrant Mount Adams, one that would compare favorably to Beacon Hill in Boston or Russian Hill in San Francisco, became fixed in Bortz’s mind.

“I thought Mt. Adams had more going for it than any other urban neighborhood I had visited,” Bortz recalls, noting the natural hillside separation of the community from Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods – with the crowing Monastery adding an old world touch. “Turns out we were right.”

After earning his Harvard MBA and working a year for a local developer, in l961 Bortz and Rosenberg made Towne Properties their full-time business, launching the Mt. Adams renaissance with the remodeling of St. Gregory Row.

St. Gregory Row has since become Towne’s logo and the symbol of Bortz’s original commitment to great design, construction and management. “Towne was and is cutting edge,” Bortz said. “We were not only the first to offer central air conditioning and wall-to-wall carpeting but the first to offer unique spaces with lofts, private gardens, soaring decks and river views.”

In the mid-60s with property values on the Hill then escalating beyond their ability to purchase them, Towne took the Mount Adams concept of creating “Great Places” to the suburbs. Led by Bortz, Towne developed award-winning communities, totaling more than 15,000 apartments, condominiums and homes including Indian Creek in Kenwood; the Villages of Wildwood in Fairfield; Harper’s Point, a California contemporary, waterscape, residential community with attractive adjacent shopping and Racquet Club; Landen, a 1,350-acre new town designed around a mile-long, man-made lake; Carpenter’s Run in Blue Ash; The Falls of Landen with its mix of garden and ranch dwellings; Somerset, with luxury apartments, condominiums and cluster, single family homes; and Four Bridges apartments and condominiums, part of the new Four Bridges Country Club and championship golf course. In the late 60s, Towne became the first Cincinnati-based developer to build a new office building in Downtown: The Formica Building at Fourth and Walnut streets and returned once again to Mount Adams to build the internationally acclaimed The Cloisters Condominiums.

In the mid-80s, Towne made its mark in commercial development with the transformation of Kenwood Plaza into the Kenwood Towne Center, the region’s first and foremost fashion mall, and Governor’s Hill, at the time the largest suburban office park. It was during this period that Towne returned to its Mount Adams roots renovating the venerable Monastery into contemporary office spaces and creating a downtown for Mount Adams with its mixed-use developments on St. Gregory Street, adding to its very first commercial venture on the Hill – The Blind Lemon back in 1963.

In the early 90s, Towne, as it had done in Mount Adams, led the housing renaissance in downtown Cincinnati developing the award-winning Gramercy, Greenwich, Groton Lofts and Shillito Lofts around Garfield Park and the 700 Walnut Street Office Building featuring Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. With its partners, the Cincinnati Development Group, Towne developed Fountain Place with Tiffany’s, Brooks Brothers, Palomino’s and Macy’s, and the Nicholson’s/Uno’s Building in the Backstage District. Most recently Towne has been creating “Great Places” at Adam’s Landing with the just completed Twain’s Point and underway Foster’s Point and Captain’s Watch. Towne also developed Roebling Row in Covington’s historic Riverside Drive area along with several dozen suburban condominium communities.

Bortz was successful developing character as well as in three sons, Adam, Brian and Chris (later elected to Cincinnati City Council), all of whom worked with him at Towne; two equally loved stepchildren, Adam and Elizabeth, and six grandchildren with former wife Susie.

Bortz was active in many arts, civic and philanthropic activities including serving as founding chair of the Walnut Hills High School Alumni Foundation, which recently completed a new Arts & Science Wing, the first time in the country that private money funded a major public school improvement. Neil is currently on the boards of the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Cincinnati Equity Fund, the National Conference of Community and Justice, the Reds Hall of Fame and on the Advisory Board to the Cincinnati Park Board.

He formerly served as president of The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and has served on the boards of the Chamber, the Playhouse in the Park, the Harvard Club of Cincinnati, the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau and Cincinnati Country Day School. He was a member of the World Presidents’ Organization, the National Multi-Housing Council and the Urban Land Institute.

Career honors included the first University of Cincinnati Distinguished Service Award (1991), the Apple Award from the Architects Foundation of Greater Cincinnati (1997), the Cincinnati Region Entrepreneur of the Year (1997), the National Conference for Community and Justice Outstanding Citizen Award (2000), the Spirit of Construction Award (2000) and Peace of the City Award (2002).

The Indian Hill resident never planning to rest on his laurels. Nor should Cincinnati USA, he asserted. “Our region is at a crossroads,” he said. “The challenges are clear and considerable but the opportunities are tantalizing. We have the brainpower and the assets in our community to fulfill our potential as one of the greatest places to live. Truly all we have to do is work together toward this common goal.”

Nominate a Great Living Cincinnatian

Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization