What does it indicate for Shanghai real estate when Asia’s richest man is selling assets, at the same time that Hollywood movie stars start making investments?
Academy award winning actor Robert De Niro announced today that he and several US-based partners had recently signed a deal to develop a 78,000 square metre retail, hotel and entertainment complex currently know as Project 179 near Shanghai’s historic Bund.
Only about 10 days after Li Ka-Shing decided that market conditions were ripe for selling his office project just across the river in Pudong.
But Hollywood was built on dreams, right?
Hollywood Partners with the Shanghai Government
De Niro and his son Raphael are partnering in the venture with BD Hotels, Empire Global Ventures, and other foreign firms, all of whom are entering the agreement with the Chinese government-backed Shanghai Bund Investment Group which owns the site at 179 Nanjing East Road (at the intersection with Jiangxi Road, two blocks from the Bund).
Commenting on the deal De Niro said, “I am looking forward to helping realize the Bund as one of the premier visitor destinations across the globe. By ensuring a design that reflects the vibrant history of Shanghai, Project 179 can serve as a jewel in its crown: ushering in a bright future while paying homage to its rich and storied past.”
Striving to Bring Luxury Retail to the Bund
Apparently, De Niro and his partners have not been dissuaded by the struggles of other luxury retail developments near the Bund, such as the Rockbund project developed by the Rockefeller family owned Rockefeller Group Development Corporation. The Rockefellers’ partner in the Rockbund project, which is located just a few blocks from Project 179, is also the Shanghai Bund Investment Group. The investment group, also known as Shanghai BIG, is charged by the Huangpu district government with the development of the Bund Financial Zone.
The Rockbund, along with many other landlords in the Bund area, has struggled to retain luxury retail tenants in the face of sparse crowds and sagging sales. The city’s primary destinations for luxury retail continue to be along Nanjing West Road, Huaihai Central Road, and in the Lujiazui area of Pudong.
When it opens in 2016, Project 179 is anticipated to include a 7400 square metre five-star boutique hotel, and 18,000 to 28,000 square metres of luxury retail space for shops, restaurants a cultural centre and a movie theatre.
Restored Architecture with Modern Style
The developers ensure that the design of the project will “reflect classic 1920s Shanghai,” and the five building complex will comprise five buildings, four of them existing historical structures, and a fifth to be built.
While a statement publicising the new agreement indicated that an architect had yet to be selected for the site, the website for international design firm BDP shows detailed drawings for a project named “179 East Nanjing Road,” several photos from which are included in the photo gallery above.
De Niro, famous for his roles as Travis Bickle (“Taxi Driver”), Jake La Motta (“Raging Bull”) and a young Vito Corleone (“Godfather II”), was involved in developing the Greenwich and Bowery hotels in New York.
The Shanghai Bund Investment Group, in addition to partnering in the development of Project 179 and the RockBund development, also restored the area now known as the Bund Origin on the south side of Suzhou Creek where it meets the Huangpu River. The Bund Origin includes the 101-year-old Yifeng Galleria and the site of the former British Consulate.