It's rare when nominees for Multifamily Executive's Executive of the Year award receive more than one or two recommendation letters with their nominations. But this year's winner, Arthur Evans, president of A.F. Evans Co. Inc., had overwhelming support from industry executives.

With more than a dozen support letters, it was evident that Evans is not simply an owner and developer of multifamily properties; he is an industry leader who believes in providing services that improve the quality of life for his residents.

Whether developing low-income housing in the inner-city, senior housing, or for-sale and rental units in suburban areas, Evans is guided by a strong sense of meeting the needs of diverse individuals and communities. "He leads by vision and by thoughtfulness," says Margaret Schrand, vice president at Wells Fargo Bank, Real Estate Group, Community Lending Division, which has completed several deals with the company. "He's not just thinking about his particular project, but how it fits into the community and how it meets the community's needs."

Arthur Evans, Executive of the Year
Arthur Evans, Executive of the Year

Evans was chosen as this year's Executive of the Year because of his "never say no" attitude toward challenging projects, as well as his determination to build projects that have never been done before.

The Beginning A.F. Evans was formed in 1977 after Evans left the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. The original employees were Evans; William McClure, the current senior vice president; and a secretary. Today, the company has more than 500 employees, says McClure.

A.F. Evans owns and manages 6,204 units, and has an additional 2,258 in the design or construction phase. Its projects are primarily in California and Washington.

Evans, who is 63 years old, became interested in housing through his fascination with how cities operate. "I've always been interested in why certain neighborhoods thrive and others die," he says. After leaving the redevelopment agency, working on Section 8 housing projects was a natural progression.

He quickly developed a reputation for knowing and understanding the issues of community development, says Linn Warren, director of multifamily programs at the California Housing Finance Agency (CHFA), which has worked on several projects with the company.

When Evans started his company, he did several equity syndication deals. He would form a joint venture with a company which would provide the seed money for the deal, and he would construct the development.

One of his early partners was Dick Kadish, president and CEO of CAPREIT. Kadish first met Evans when Kadish flew to San Francisco to close a deal in which Evans was only a 25 percent partner.

However, When Kadish arrived, the general partner wasn't there. Instead, it was Evans waiting for him at the airport, and Evans who took him to the property, went through the plans and introduced him to the architect, builder and lawyers.

Throughout the day, Evans assured Kadish that the deal was fine. After about 10 hours, the general partner, a former CHFA employee, still hadn't showed up. But when Kadish finally asked what was going on, Evans explained that it was the general partner's first deal; there was a gap in financing of $100,000 and the general partner was nervous, because he thought $100,000 was a large amount.

"To us, that was nothing," says Kadish. "It was a quarter on the table. Art was trying to cover for this guy who got so nervous that he didn't know what to do. The deal closed on time. It was because of Art that the deal went through. And it was very successful; everyone made money. I thought [Evans] was something special, because he did what he did to protect his friend." Kadish did $200 million in equity syndications with Evans from 1981 through 1994. Evans knows that the key to success is personal contact, and dealing with issues and concerns up front. Instead of letting a deal fall through, he takes it upon himself to smooth everything out. And he does that with all of his deals.