Shanghai Shenglong Investment Group announced plans for a 37-storey condominium development in downtown Los Angeles last Thursday, the same day that it announced the $141 million purchase of two adjacent sites in Sydney, Australia.
In California, Shenglong subsidiary City Century submitted plans to the Los Angeles Planning Commission for constructing a 126-unit luxury tower near the Staples Center arena. The residential complex would occupy part of a 4100 square metre site that City Century acquired in February for $26 million.
Down under, Shenglong’s Aqualand subsidiary stunned the local market by snatching up a historic commercial building and a residential site on Darling Island along Sydney harbour for A$180 million ($141 million).
Although little-known outside of China, privately owned Shenglong appears to be making use of funds earned through China’s property boom, and extended family ties in strategic locations, to build an international portfolio that now includes eight real estate development projects.
City Century Has Big Plans for LA
For its project in southern California, City Century has turned to local architect Richard Keating to create a slender tower that would leave enough room on the compact site for the Shenglong subsidiary to add an additional project on the same land.
The Chinese company paid what is said to be among the highest prices ever for a downtown LA site – $585 per square foot, considering that the location was not yet zoned for high rise development.
A shortage of condominiums in Los Angeles has City Century managing partner Joseph Lin convinced that the developer can sell its units for $1000 per square foot, meaning that homes in the new building would sell for $600,000 to $4 million each. Condos in the Metropolis project, currently being built by Shanghai’s Greenland Group, are also now selling for $1000 per square foot in roughly the same location.
The Grand Avenue project is City Century’s second in Los Angeles, and is among eight planned international projects for the Shanghai company. Lin is confident that real estate firm can take on more. “This is just the first one,” the US-based Shenglong partner told the Los Angeles Times. “Our goal is to build 1,500 units.”
According to the Times account, Lin is hoping to have the project plan approved promptly and then begin construction on the tower early next year.
Aqualand Angling For More Sites Along Sydney Harbour
In Sydney Shenglong’s Aqualand Australia subsidiary acquired a site on Darling Island along Sydney’s waterfront that had already been approved for an eight-storey luxury residential complex, and surprised the market by picking up a historic office building adjacent to the site at the same time.
The commercial building is currently the home of Australian TV’s Seven Network, and is a protected heritage site in the city.
According to an account in The Australian, Aqualand is expected to move quickly to put up 32 condo units on the residential site, but the network has a lease to remain in the office building until 2029. Together the two sites total nearly 9500 square metres and were sold by the Citta Property Group, of which the Seven Network is a shareholder.
The Darling island sites, are Aqualand’s fifth and sixth in Australia, with all located in Sydney, except for one project in Perth, Western Australia.
Family Business Becoming International Player
For Shenglong, seven international projects does not appear to be enough with the company said to be planning more deals in Los Angeles, Australia and even the UK.
A subsequent Sydney deal appears to be imminent, with The Australian revealing that Aqualand is a leading bidder for a second harbourside site, this time along the city’s north shore, which Seven Network’s media rival has put up for sale for A$150 million ($117 million).
The Sydney expansion is in addition to Century City’s plans for further condo projects in Los Angeles, and Shenglong has also announced that it is looking for projects in the UK.
The expansion is impressive for the company driven by chairman Lin Yi, a Shanghai-based entrepreneur who tightly controls the property group.
The billionaire was listed as China’s 68th wealthiest man by the 2014 Hurun Rich List, with a fortune estimated at $2.8 billion. Expansion of Lin’s privately held empire, which started in China’s Fujian province in 1999, so far appears to be closely linked to the Lin family.
Lin Yi’s son, Shangjin Lin, is managing director of Aqualand, while the 22-year-old is also said to be currently enrolled as a student at Macquarie University. Lin Yi is also said to have permanent residence in Australia. In the US City Century’s Joseph Lin, who has taken on responsibility for City Century’s development projects after previously working in the garment industry, is Lin Yi’s cousin.
In China, Shenglong has projects in Shanghai, Nanjing, Tianjin, Fuzhou, Zhengzhou and Luoyang, and is based in Shanghai’s Lujiazui financial district. According to its website, as of 2013 the property developer had projects totalling more than 30 million square meters and had invested nearly $25 billion.