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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:768 1990-1993 R555

Donald R. Riehl papers


The collection documents Donald R. Riehl's service as chairman of the Urban Land Institute’s Real Estate Credit Task Force, 1990-1991. The records include correspondence, reports, and background materials related to the task force's investigation into "credit crunch" that affected the real estate development industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s.


  • 1990-1993

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information regarding access procedures.


1.0 linear feet (2 boxes)

The collection consists of Donald R. Riehl’s files relating to his work as chairman of the Urban Land Institute’s Real Estate Credit Task Force, 1990-1992. The records include correspondence and memoranda between task force members, planning documents and agendas, and draft versions of task force reports. The records also include background material on the state of the real estate market in the early 1990s, such as article and clippings, industry reports, and government documents.

Several reports and updates published by the Urban Land Institute on behalf of the task force are included. The files also contain letters sent to the task force during its tenure by ULI members and others in the real estate field. The letters provide commentary on the conclusions reached and recommendations proposed by the task force in its reports and presentations.

The records are arranged in loose chronological order. Highlights include the July 1990 appointment of the task force members, including Donald Riehl as chair, by Urban Land Institute president Smedes York; the drafting of the first task force report, released in October 1990; and the December 1990 meeting with key banking and insurance figures.

The January 1991 Washington, D. C. meetings with federal regulating agencies are well documented, and include Mr. Riehl’s personal notes. The collection includes the studies produced by Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution, as well as early drafts and correspondence between Downs and the task force. The records also document the April 1992 ULI meeting in Seattle, including planning information, notes, agendas, and Mr. Riehl’s introductory comments. Finally, there are copies of several reports produce by the second task force in 1992 and 1993.

The first folder contains the transcript of a September 9, 2016 interview with Donald R. Riehl about his career, the Urban Land Institute, and the work of the 1990-1991 ULI Real Estate Credit Task Force.

Biographical Note:

Donald R. Riehl, a California real estate developer, served as chairman of the Urban Land Institute’s Real Estate Credit Task Force from 1990 to 1991. After earning an M. B. A. from Harvard Business School in 1958, Donald Riehl began his career in real estate development with the Oliver Tyrone Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He later joined the New York investment bank Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, starting its real estate subsidiary and serving as president of the division. In 1969, he purchased several of Donaldson Lufkin &Jenrette’s real estate assets, and started D. R. Riehl, Inc., as a commercial and industrial real estate development company based in San Francisco, California. Mr. Riehl was involved as principal and owner or joint developer of some 9 million square feet of retail and heavy industrial real estate projects until his retirement in 2006.

In 1962, Mr. Riehl joined the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a nonprofit research and education organization “representing the entire spectrum of land use and real estate development disciplines working in private enterprise and public service.” Mr. Riehl served as a member and chairman of several ULI committees during the course of his career, including the research, membership, finance, and executive committees. By the late 1980s, Mr. Riehl had been appointed a life member of the ULI’s board of trustees.

In 1990, Donald Riehl was asked to serve as chairman of an Urban Land Institute task force focused on the tightening of the credit in the real estate market. By 1989, the developing Savings and Loan Association crisis, changes in regulatory policy, and an uncertain economy had resulted in a constriction of credit available for real estate development. The commercial banks and life insurance companies that traditionally provided loans to developers became increasingly conservative, severely tightening the terms and conditions for both new loans and the renewal of existing loans. The ULI Real Estate Credit Task Force was charged with identifying the causes of the “credit crunch” and making recommendations to remedy it.

After their appointment in July 1990, the task force members began the process of drafting a preliminary report on the credit crisis. The group held a meeting in San Francisco in August, and its report was presented to the membership at a ULI conference in Chicago in October 1990. A follow-up meeting was held in New York in December 1990, with key figures from the banking and insurance industries invited to attend.

In January 1991, the Real Estate Credit Task Force traveled to Washington to meet with officials of the key government agencies involved in the regulation of the banking industry. The goal of the meetings was to relay the Urban Land Institute membership’s concern with the current state of the real estate credit market, and to share the task force’s recommendations for relieving the situation. During the visit, the ULI task force attended meetings at the White House, the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the U. S. Department of the Treasury, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC.) The White House meeting was led by Roger Porter, assistant to President George H. W. Bush for economics and domestic policy.

The task force also commissioned Anthony Downs, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution with expertise in real estate economics, housing, and urban policy, to study the credit situation on its behalf. Downs published three papers on the subject in 1991: “How the Current ‘Credit Crunch’ is Excessively Depressing Real Estate Values, ” “How Pressures on Banks to Reduce their Real Estate Assets are Undermining the Banking System,” and “Banks and Real Estate: How to Resolve the Dilemma.”

The task force organized a program highlighting its report and recommendations, and the Washington D.C. meetings, at the ULI April 1991 meeting, held in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle meeting featured a discussion on the credit crisis, with real estate developers, federal regulators, and representatives from the banking industry serving as panelists. The task force had fulfilled its charge after the conclusion of the Seattle meeting, and Mr. Riehl then completed his service as chairman, submitting a final report in November 1991. The ULI Real Estate Credit Task Force continued its activities with new membership into 1993, when the conditions causing the “credit crunch” began to abate.

Physical Location



Gift of Donald R. Riehl, 2016.

Processing Information

Processed: October 2017

By: Tim Mahoney

Riehl, Donald R. Donald R. Riehl Papers, 1990-1993: A Finding Aid
Baker Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository

Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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