Korman Family History
Decades of Tradition
Born in Eastern Europe in 1882, company founder, Hyman Korman, traveled across Russia during his late teen years and early 20s with his uncles, who were successful railway builders. This is where he got his first exposure to homebuilding. To expedite the construction of the railway across Russia, Hyman's uncles came up with an innovative and successful solution by providing temporary housing, essentially log cabins that were easily disassembled and reassembled as they progressed across the country, for their workers.
Hyman emigrated to New York in 1904 at age 23 and immediately found work as a tailor in the garment industry. Two years later, he moved his family to Hamilton Farm near what is now Oxford Circle in Philadelphia, where he rented and worked the land. To supplement the family income, Hyman and his wife, Yetta, took boarders. In 1914, road development opened traffic through the farm. Foreseeing the expansion and development of Philadelphia in the Northeast along Roosevelt Boulevard, Hyman purchased Hamilton Farm in 1917, which became the first Korman land acquisition.
Today, Hyman is celebrated as being instrumental to the early development of Philadelphia. He took out loans from local banks and continued purchasing farmland in the area. In 1921 and in 1922, Hyman built his first Northeast twin homes. From 1924 to 1925, he built his first community development that included homes, apartments and stores. Between 1929 and 1934, the company built more than 500 homes. At that time, this was a very sizable percentage of the total homes built in all of Philadelphia. In 1933, after his youngest son, Sam, joined, Hyman incorporated the home building business into Hyman Korman, Inc.
Sam, the youngest of Hyman and Yetta's sons, joined the family business in 1928. Prior to 1935, HKI specialized in single or twin homes, but in the decade that followed, Sam branched out. They made their first attempt at a new form of housing: the row home. More than 6,000 row homes were built in the Castor Avenue district alone.
In 1938, HKI built its first apartment development, Leiper Street Apartments. Others soon followed at Oxford Court and Jefferson Court. This type of development became a prototype of what is now known as the garden-court apartments in Philadelphia. Apartment Center, the company’s first apartment complex, began in 1940, and was fully completed in 1955.
HKI continued to grow as a major developer of planned communities in Philadelphia and the suburbs, constructing single and twin homes, apartments, stores and shopping centers. In 1960, they completed Green Ridge Farms, luxury single homes at Pine and County Line roads. It was recognized as a model suburban community. They also completed Brentwood Park in Bustleton, with more than 600 homes in both developments. They also completed final plans for Parkwood Manor, the largest development ever started in Philadelphia by a single homebuilder. The following year, HKI astounded real estate brokers, builders, planners, bankers, and the public, with more than 800 homes started in the ambitious new development.
In 1962, Sam’s son, Steven, joined the family business, now The Korman Company. Between 1964 and 1966, they developed The Plaza, a white marble, circular high-rise in Center City, Philadelphia. The building was beautiful and had a prime location, but the contemporary apartment design with pie-shaped floor plans was a challenge to lease. Steven commissioned several Philadelphia designers to each furnish one apartment on a floor in a unique way. After a man touring the property expressed interest in renting the apartment fully furnished, Steven realized there was a segment of people that wasn't being served, those between the daily hotel stay and the annual apartment lease. In 1966, he revolutionized the apartment industry in the United States, offering fully furnished apartments with flexible leases.
Over the next 10 years, Steven expanded and enhanced this concept to a fully serviced furnished apartment with amenities packages and housekeeping. Features that are considered apartment standards today, such as washers and dryers and wall-to-wall carpeting were innovations championed by Steven in the 1970s. By the early 1980s, after building more than 40,000 homes, single family, duplex, row houses, and apartments, Steven led the company’s residential division out of home building, and exclusively into the apartment and furnished suite business.
In 2012, Temple University’s Fox School of Business honored Steven with its prestigious Musser Award. It is the school’s highest honor for outstanding achievement, leadership, and commitment to the community by a distinguished member of business. On the evening he received the award, he surprised 20 Temple University sophomore students each with a scholarship.
Steven’s oldest son, Larry, joined the company in operations in 1986, and his second son, Brad, in finance in 1987. Steven's youngest son, Mark, joined later in 1994 as head of the commercial division. Larry made his first mark on The Korman Company by introducing the idea of synergy, the whole being more valuable and effective than the individual parts. Until then, all 23 Korman apartment communities operated independently of each other, each with their own operation standards and marketing identity. In 1987, all 23 properties became one brand, Korman Suites.
Korman Communities Inc., with Larry and Brad Korman as co-CEOs, emerged as a stand-alone company in 1995 and continued to evolve the Korman Suites concept, expanding into Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. In 1997, recognizing an unmet need in major cities for luxury extended stay apartments with hotel services, Korman renovated Rittenhouse 222, the first building they operated as 100% furnished suites. This building would be the origin of a new brand, AKA, with the purchase, renovation, and repositioning of eight high-rise properties in coveted urban areas, including four in midtown Manhattan. AKA became a national and international brand in 2012 with the opening of AKA Beverly Hills and AKA West End in London.
In 2008 Larry and Brad named three women, each with the company for more than 20 years, to lead the company's three exciting new brands: AKA, a portfolio of urban, luxury extended-stay serviced residences; AVE, a collection of suburban, garden-style and mid-rise furnished and unfurnished residences; and ARK, the original portfolio of garden-style apartment communities nestled in key Philadelphia suburbs.