NAHB Hall of Fame Builder Raymond A. Watt Dies at 90
Raymond A. Watt, a prominent Southern California real estate developer who was among the first in California to develop condominiums and timeshares, died of natural causes in Rancho Mirage on July 7. He was 90.
Watt was founder and chairman of the board of Watt Companies, one of the largest owners, developers and managers of commercial real estate in the western U.S. The company has developed more than 8 million square feet of commercial and retail properties and has built more than 100,000 homes and apartments, 50 shopping centers, six master-planned communities and three major hotels.
Watt was also a trustee at the University of Southern California (USC).
Watt founded his first construction company in 1947, with the goal of building homes to accommodate Southern California’s returning GI’s. From a small builder custom homes and remodeler, his company grew to become a major force in shaping the landscape of the Southland. A few of the company’s most prominent projects include the Watt Plaza Office Towers in Century City, Los Angeles’ Sheraton Gateway Hotel and Renaissance, a 375-home master-planned community in Inglewood.
During the Nixon Administration, Watt took time out from the construction industry to serve as assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He also was a former president of the National Corporation of Housing Partnerships, established by Congress to accelerate the development of middle- and low-income housing.
Throughout his career, Watt received numerous accolades for his industry leadership and commitment to the community. He was named one of the 100 foremost builders of the 20th century by Builder magazine and in 1985 was inducted into the NAHB Hall of Fame.
For his participation in the Los Angeles Real Estate and Construction Industries Council, which raises funds for City of Hope, Watt received the Spirit of Life Award in 2001. In 2008, the Century City Chamber of Commerce designated him as its Individual Citizen of the Year.
Watt was also committed to programs benefitting local youth. He was a former trustee of the Hugh O’Brian Youth Foundation and a director of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Sheriff’s Youth Foundation. In 2008, the Cushman Watt Scout Center, a new Boy Scouts facility in the heart of Los Angeles, was named in honor of Watt and fellow contributor John C. Cushman III.
Watt was a longtime member of USC Associates, the university’s premier support group, and was elected to the USC Board of Trustees in 1968. In 1969, he gave $1 million for construction of a building that now bears his name, the Ray and Nadine Watt Hall of Architecture and Fine Arts.
In 2005, he assisted with planning and made a second $1 million gift supporting the Robert H. Timme Architectural Research Center, a third-floor addition to Watt Hall named for the former dean of the USC School of Architecture.
Watt is survived by his third wife, Gwendolyn; three children, Sally Oxley, Janet Van Huisen and J. Scott Watt; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.