The apartment industry suffered a loss last Friday when Al Neely, Denver-based Archstone’s decorated chief development officer, passed away at age 64 from natural causes.
In his 40-year career, Neely led the development and redevelopment of several billion dollars of real estate across more than 20 million square feet in five major metropolitan areas, including his home base of Washington, D.C.
“He was a broadly experienced developer,” says Neil Brown, an executive vice president at Archstone who reported to Neely. “He had experience in every product type, including office, commercial, multifamily, and condos.”
Neely won the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties’ (NAIOP) Developer of the Year Award in 1997, and the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Multi-Family Developer of the Year Award in 2001. “Al was a tremendous example of everything our company stands for,” said Archstone CEO Scot Sellers in a statement. “He was a consummate professional, having developed millions of square feet of the most valuable real estate in the country, but was still a very humble person, who placed genuine value on people and relationships.”
Neely joined Charles E. Smith Apartments in 1989 as the vice president of development. When the firm merged with Archstone in 2001, Neely became chief development officer. Since then, he guided the development and repositioning of more than 15,000 units. He was also instrumental in the creation of a joint venture with Hines, which is focused on redeveloping the former Convention Center site in downtown Washington, D.C.
Many of Neely’s projects secured industry recognition. In 2010, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association awarded Archstone Wisconsin Place an award for Best Mixed-Use Project. Meanwhile, in 2008, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) awarded Archstone Boston Common a Pillars industry award for Best High-Rise Community. “His passion was development,” Brown says. “He didn’t really seem to have a lot of outside interests. He tried golf and didn’t like it. He had a wine cellar and couldn’t figure out what to put in it. So he didn’t put anything in it. His love was really development. There were two things Al lived for: his family and his work.”
Neely was also focused on grooming the next generation of development talent. “He liked to share that [his experience] with all of the guys that worked for him,” Brown says. “He was involved in helping the next generation of developers. That was a role he adored being involved with.”
Outside of his work, Neely was involved with Collegiate Directions, a non-profit organization committed to closing the education gap by providing comprehensive college counseling services and ongoing support (beginning in high school and continuing through college graduation) to a target population of low-income, first-generation-to-college students. “He was very charitable with his time and money,” Brown says. “He supported several charities.”
Neely is survived by his wife, Carla, and his daughter, Elizabeth. The family has asked that charitable contributions be made to Collegiate Directions in lieu of flowers.