FOREST CITY ENTERPRISES, INC., which grew to own some $2 billion in real estate in 1993, was founded in 1922 by Jewish Polish immigrant Charles Ratner who opened the Forest City Materials Co. to sell lumber and building materials at E. 93rd St. and Harvard Ave. After incorporation in 1924, Ratner's 2 brothers, LEONARD and MAX, joined the business in 1925 and by 1928 Charles had sold out to them. Selling primarily to professional builders, Forest City thrived and moved into the building business itself, constructing garages, cottages, and unfinished furniture. In 1941 the company became one of the nation's first firms to manufacture prefabricated homes. Forest City profited from the post-WORLD WAR II boom as a pioneer in the "do-it-yourself" home improvement market when it opened its first retail store in 1955. Two years later, the company built a large lumberyard and building materials center on Brookpark Rd. in Brooklyn, which became its headquarters in 1965.
In 1960 the Ratner family consolidated its interests in the lumber and building materials field and the management of commercial properties into a new firm, Forest City Enterprises, Inc. By 1983 it had 20 home-center retail stores, 7 of them in the Cleveland area. After its 1960 reorganization, Forest City's greatest growth occurred in real estate, as it built, owned, and managed shopping malls, office and industrial buildings, hotels, and apartment complexes across the nation. Its acquisition of Thomas J. Dillon & Co. in 1968 provided the firm with modular units that Dillon had developed, which allowed for a fast and efficient building system for mass-produced housing and Forest City became Cleveland's largest apartment and home builder. Forest City Rental Properties, formed as a separate company in 1969 for its real estate enterprises, concentrated on larger urban developments, such as Cleveland's Halle Bldg. (see HALLE BROS. CO.), purchased in 1982, and the Tower City project, which was begun in 1980 and opened in March 1990.
In 1991 Forest City entered into the first U.S.-Mexico joint transportation ventures with Burlington Northern, Inc., to facilitate trade by integrating rail and barge services between interior points in Mexico and the U.S. In 1993 Forest City became part of a partnership to build 3,000 residential units in Las Vegas. In 1993 Forest City's revenues topped $500 million.