Experience, creativity, and entrepreneurial drive are
the hallmarks of ADCO’s reputation.

Mr. Buy-and-hold
ADCO chief's plans would give Dworman big S.F. impact -- again


As Dworman's wealth grew, he started buying up development sites in New York and Los Angeles.
He also was tapped by his old mentor Charlie Torem to find a defunct, cheap factory to buy, which he did for $10,000 in upstate New York. He and Torem then got a contract to build minesweepers to go along rail lines.


"I got that contract and that factory and went there once a month and made a lot of money," he recalled.


A web of activity

Chairman and founder of the ADCO Group, Dworman keeps a low profile. But through affiliate corporations like the Matsen Co. and Great Universal Capital Corp., he has developed or owned well over 10,000 units of housing across the country. Dworman, who travels on a private jet and has homes in Aspen, the Hamptons and the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said his companies have done more condo conversions in New York than any other development, including the 1,100-unit Kip's Bay.


At one point in the 1950s, Dworman owned 30 to 40 building sites in Manhattan alone. In New York, he built residential and mixed-use buildings at 155 East 76th St., 155 East 55th St., 200 East 58th St., and 65 West 55th St. In Los Angeles, he built the first highrise residential building in Westwood, on Wilshire Boulevard -- the Churchhill at 10450 Wilshire Blvd.


In 1968, he bought a controlling interest in one of the first REITs, Franchard Corp., and took it private. Franchard was later merged with another public company, Lee Tire and Rubber, which Dworman also took private through a tender offer in 1978. In the Franchard portfolio were 1,100 acres in Santa Barbara that Dworman eventually, after a three-year entitlement battle, turned into Bacara Resort and Spa.


He has also owned several banks, including the East River Savings Bank, which he bought for $47 million cash in 1985.


Assembling the site a new St. Mary's cathedral a year after he gained site control of the redevelopment zone that in San Francisco's Western Addition, he got a call from Justin Herman, then head of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Herman said St. Mary's Cathedral had burned down and asked Dworman to meet with Archbishop Joseph McGucken.


"He said they have to rebuild the church and he would like to do it right where our land was," recalled Dworman. Dworman spent the next months assembling the site for the cathedral. In addition to giving the church some of his land, he helped convince the owner of Lucky's Supermarket, which had recently opened, to move as well.


"The first time I went to see Lucky, he said, "Are you kidding? I just built this thing,'" recalled Dworman. "He threw me out the door."


Dworman eventually found the market an alternative site and made a deal to move him. He credits McGucken with helping him navigate city politics. "He was like a godfather to me in this community," said Dworman.


Former Mayor Brown, who said he met Dworman in the late 1960s, called Dworman "a hot shot and a visionary and a risk taker of the highest order.


"He didn't know anybody but he understood the technical aspects of land use," said Brown. "He introduced himself to everyone in the neighborhood, including the janitors." Brown said the fact that he was willing to assemble a site for the church went along way toward building political capital.


Museum Parc

Dworman was also the first developer to build condos South of Market with the 224-unit Museum Parc. Paul Zeger, president of Pacific Marketing Associates, recalled that out of 224 units, 189 were under contract when the earthquake hit in 1989.


Only one buyer backed out because of the quake and Dworman offered nearly complete Museum Parc units to a number of Marina residents whose homes had been destroyed.


"He took a shot there and everybody was so thrilled that we got $300 a foot -- today the resales are $800 or $900 a foot," said Zeger.


David Shapiro, managing director of JMP Asset Management, a hedge fund, called Dworman a "phenomenal visionary." Shapiro worked for Dworman in San Francisco during the 1980s. Shapiro said Dworman has had numerous chances to sell all of his San Francisco properties at great prices, but declined.


"The difference between a financial engineer and real developer is that a developer has vision and once you build something it's like selling one of your children. If it's something you're proud of, why would you want to sell?"


Dworman has served as a mentor to a generation of top real estate executives. Dworman backed Bruce Mosler, president and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield, in his first venture, Riverbank Realty.


"Alvin is a self-made person, he taught himself real estate," said Mosler. "He has experienced every possible real estate cycle, some twice, and has never come out of it without learning."


Stephen Roth, chairman of Vornado Realty Trust, the real estate giant that recently acquired the Bank of America building at 555 California St., called Dworman "strong physically and strong mentally and a winner."


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