James Bronkema, former longtime CEO of Embarcadero Center, dies at 89 

James Bronkema, who oversaw development of The City’s Embarcadero Center in 1971 and served as managing partner and CEO of the 3 million-square-foot complex until his retirement in 1989, died at his Palm Springs home Feb. 5. He was 89.

Construction of the Embarcadero Center, which spans four blocks near the Ferry Building and features more than 100 retail shops and restaurants, led to the gentrification of the area and the rehabilitation of The Embarcadero. Bronkema assumed oversight of the expansive project shortly after moving to San Francisco in 1970.

“The hope was to revitalize that area and that’s exactly what happened,” David Nelson, a friend of Bronkema’s, said of the developer’s vision.

Bronkema was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., and attended college there at Calvin College. He joined the military in 1943, serving stateside.

He began his career in the development business in Michigan before relocating to the West Coast.

Bronkema was a multiterm member of the Golden Gate Bridge board and headed the committee that organized the bridge’s 50th anniversary. He was additionally active with the visitors and convention bureau and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

An avid golfer, Bronkema was also a member of Mensa International, the largest high-IQ society in the world.

He is survived by his wife, Sharon; three daughters; and a stepdaughter.

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