It took just one 15-minute phone call in July last year to persuade Chang Ifei to join Shanghai-based developer Greenland and lead a US expansion. Within three months, she was running US$6 billion of projects as part of a record push by Chinese investors into American property.
Greenland reached a preliminary agreement in October last year to buy a 70 per cent stake in the US$5 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, New York. That followed a July deal to acquire a US$1 billion residential-and-entertainment project in Los Angeles.
Chang, who took charge of that site on arriving in the US, is now on the hunt for more investments.
"In China, you climb a ladder where everything is floating and moving so fast," Chang said at her 46th-floor Los Angeles office overlooking the empty lot where the Metropolis project will be built. "We come from a country of 1.4 billion people and a lot of economic growth. This kind of project and investment speed is very normal in China. That's why we are so confident we will deliver this project."
Greenland, like other Chinese companies, is committing to a growing number of multibillion-dollar developments outside of its home market. Chinese investments in US commercial properties jumped almost 10-fold last year from 2012, with Manhattan the biggest area for purchases, followed by other New York City boroughs and Los Angeles, according to research firm Real Capital Analytics.
Greenland, the state-owned builder that is also developing one of China's tallest towers, has become one of its country's biggest investors in US real estate.
The Metropolis project, acquired from the California State Teachers' Retirement System, is planned as a 275,450 sq ft development with hotels, apartments and luxury condominiums.
Chang, the president and chief executive of Greenland US, said she expected completion within five years, with aspirations "to graduate early".
Greenland agreed to buy most of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards from the site's original developer, Forest City Ratner, after a couple of phone calls, a dinner and a visit by the seller's executive team to Greenland's Shanghai headquarters. "Three weeks later, we had an agreement," Chang said.