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Current as of 26/12/14 07:40PM NZST

Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Fletcher boss has impressive pedigree

New housing chief has worked on some of London’s biggest projects

Fletchers will be developing more housing areas similar to the popular Stonefields at Mt Wellington which is nearing completion.
Fletchers will be developing more housing areas similar to the popular Stonefields at Mt Wellington which is nearing completion.

A Melbourne engineer with some of London's biggest commercial and residential building projects under his belt is Fletcher Building's new housing boss, charged with ramping up annual residential building output five-fold.

A new position - housing chief operating officer - has been created for Steve Evans, who has a strong pedigree for the challenge ahead of him. He estimates he has been in charge of creating around 5000 places, many in London, largely apartment blocks, the tallest being a 45-level Southwark tower.

But also on his CV is the futuristic landmark 46-level commercial Heron Tower - "tallest in the City of London until it was overtaken by the Cheesegrater" - developed when he was at Heron International last decade as its development director.

Evans named two London buildings in his biggest accomplishments: "Adelaide Wharf in Hackney as an example of truly making tenure housing work well and Heron Tower for turning the industry on its ear because it looked at solutions and was challenging the norm.

But I'm most proud of the relationships I've built with people."

Mark Adamson, Fletcher chief executive, this week said he considered whether Fletcher should be in the house-building business and decided the opportunities were big, growth was in Auckland and Christchurch and he wanted a pipeline of at least 3000 sections available for construction.

So his new programme expects to take Fletcher from the 289 places it built in the June 2014 year to about 500 in this June 2015 year and around 1500 annually.

Evans estimated that 1500 target was four to five years away.

But Fletcher already has a land bank of hundreds of hectares in Auckland.

The Three Kings Quarry site alone is earmarked for 1500 residences, Mt Wellington's Stonefields is nearing completion but Evans said the business was also negotiating to buy a 600-lot Whenuapai site near Hobsonville Point, would begin work on its Manukau Golf Course land around 2017-18 probably at the Great South Rd end, on 21.1ha at Orewa's former Peninsula Golf Club around the same time and wanted to acquire more land in the meantime.

"We will have to buy more sites to create land parcels, looking at a minimum of 50 to 100 houses," he said, indicating average section sites of 450sq m to 500sq m.

Evans, brought in to work with Fletcher Residential general manager Ken Lotu-Iiga, started his career at Lend Lease in Australia, then in the 1990s, moved with that business to Asia and was based in Singapore where he worked on retail and industrial projects but also in Taiwan and China on pharmaceutical projects and wafer fabrications plants. In 2003, he moved with Lend Lease to Britain, working in a joint venture with developer Stanhope on the HMRC and Treasury buildings in the heart of Westminster, then other landmark London schemes including the first part of the Regent St redevelopment, Paternoster Square and Unilever's headquarters building.

In that role, Evans met people from specialist London developer First Base which he joined in 2005, working on its award-winning Adelaide Wharf project which saw the regeneration of a disused Shoreditch industrial site into commercial space and 147 apartments designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.

At First Base, he was director responsible for development and delivery, involved in more than 1000 apartments in Islington, Hackney, Southwark and Kings Cross, all medium to high-density.

"We used innovative funding packages, clever design and modern methods of construction to ensure that we kept running costs low yet specifications high."

In 2007, he was head-hunted to join Heron International as its development director, reporting directly to veteran developer and chief executive Gerald Ronson and "inheriting" the Heron Tower skyscraper project close to Liverpool Street Station. Evans was working most recently on the planned new 44-level Four Seasons Hotel and private residences project which, he says, "involved a number of unique challenges including the construction of a high rise building in a conservation area, the establishment of residential in the City and having a building located in a number of key strategic viewing corridors".

"Other projects under my wing include The Heron, a 38-storey 286-unit residential scheme finished last year, the new Guildhall School of Music in the City of London adjacent to the Barbican and office and residential schemes in the City of Westminster."

He was head-hunted for the Fletcher role last year and is renting a home in Mission Bay but cited Three Kings, Epsom, Mt Eden and Beachlands as areas where he and the family might eventually settle.

Having worked with some of the world's top architects in Asia and London, Evans says he is keen to work with local and international architects on Fletcher housing and has already met Warren and Mahoney's John Coop, and architects from Jasmax and Architectus. But he won't name Auckland's best or worst apartment blocks: "I don't think there's a huge amount of apartment buildings that I would say 'I want it exactly like that' but the architects are capable of doing some great work."

Evans is aware of feelings running high over the Three Kings scheme but asks if it's worse there than at Unitec or Tamaki and emphasises that he plans to develop quality housing: "My role centres around community building as a way of creating places where people want to live."


Steven Evans

Position: Fletcher Building, chief operating officer housing
Age: 49
From: Bulleen, Melbourne
Mid-1980s to early 2005: With Lend Lease in Australia, Asia, London
2005: First Base, London
2007: Heron International
December, 2013: Joined Fletcher Building, based overseas
May, this year: Moved to Auckland
Lives: With his young family in a Mission Bay rental
Qualification: Structural engineering degree, Melbourne University
Interests: Travel

- NZ Herald

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