ON a vast site in front of Guangzhou's railway station, not far from the Giordano shop and the sports stadium, the foundation is being laid for Asia's tallest building. When completed in 1996, the Sky Central Plaza will check in at 390 metres, the equivalent of about 80 storeys of a modern office block. The developers of this spectacular project are Kumagai Gumi (Hong Kong) Ltd and Shell Electric, both Hong Kong-listed companies with extensive property interests in China, Ringo Trading, a subsidiary of China International Trust-Investment Corp, and a private Hong Kong firm. The $3 billion project is the most ambitious commercial property development undertaken in China in recent years. Sky Central Plaza will have one 68-storey office tower and two 36-storey residential blocks, giving a gross floor area of 300,000 square metres, including car parks. Architects Ng Chun Mun and Associates, who designed the complex, said although the office tower would reach a height equivalent to 80 storeys, there would, in fact, only be 68 storeys. The remainder would be used to accommodate a huge glass atrium and a vast podium. The office tower will have a gross floor area of 147,000 square metres, and the residential blocks, with 570 serviced apartments, around 70,000 square metres. The six floors of retail facilities will provide a further 37,000 square metres, and the entire complex will be surrounded by elaborately landscaped gardens and recreational facilities. The project comes at a time when Beijing has taken austerity measures to cool down the economy, particularly the speculative property sector. But developers say they have not been affected and remain bullish. ''We think the timing of this project is excellent. The Guangzhou economy is booming. The infrastructure is well developed and there is a severe shortage of high-quality commercial space. I expect the demand in the next few years to continue to outstrip supply,'' said Yu Ching-po, chairman and managing director of Kumagai Gumi (Hong Kong) Ltd. ''Zhu Rongji's austerity measures have provided the necessary brakes for the economy to develop at a steady, healthy pace. They benefit well-established developers because they drive out the speculative, sub-standard projects,'' he said. Property brokers say both residential and commercial prices in Guangzhou have soared in the last few years. Although beginning to stabilise about nine months ago, they have recently shown signs of picking up again, especially in the commercial sector. The two Grade A commercial properties in Guangzhou, the World Trade Centre and the 63-storey Citic Building, are charging rentals of $18 to $20 per square foot. Mr Yu said he expected Sky Central Plaza to be a highly profitable project because of the low land cost. Kumagai is the main contractor while Gammon Hong Kong, the construction arm of the Jardine Matheson group, is finalising plans to become the main sub-contractor of the scheme. Kumagai's other property projects in China include residential developments in Guangzhou, Haikou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, and commercial buildings in Haikou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai. Property prices in most of southern China have not been as hard hit as expected, but the stock of supply has slowed down. Some of the less viable projects have become stalled, but new Hong Kong investment continues to pour in.