Olympic makeover

Adam Main

Qingdao, famed for its beer, beaches and German architecture, is undergoing a massive transformation as the coastal city prepares to host the sailing events for next year's Olympic Games.

The government of the 2.5-million-population city in Shandong province has spent 3.28 billion yuan to create the 45-hectare Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre at Fushan Bay, reported Xinhua News Agency, including 1.78 billion yuan to move the Beihai shipyard.

When the Games are over, the site will become the country's sailing base, with entertainment, leisure activities and water sports.

Jeff Weidenborner, founder and managing director of Sienna Commercial Qingdao Realty Advisors, says the 'Olympic factor' has been positive for the city, with heavy investment in infrastructure projects.

In addition to rebuilding its airport and main train station, Mr Weidenborner says the construction of the 35.8km Qingdao Bay Bridge, set to open next year, and a tunnel under the bay scheduled for 2010, will open up the city. Qingdao boasts 870km of coastline (including islands) and covers seven urban districts and five county-level satellite cities. About eight million people live in the area.

'Investors are catching on that Qingdao is a good place to be because there are some good opportunities, especially for the high-quality market, and that's in any of the sectors - industrial, office or residential,' says the New Yorker.

'I have had clients come in with multinationals, I do their office lease, and they need to find an apartment. They can't find anything that meets the standard they are used to in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Beijing. There is a little bit of a lack of quality right now but there are a lot of projects that should bring in higher international grade-A quality.'

Two spectacular towers called The Sails at 9 Donghai Road will be future landmarks for the city when opened next July. The Sunny World Group project has attracted strong pre-sales, especially among Japanese and Korean buyers - the latter a huge expat group estimated at more than 60,000 - with some units going for 30,000 yuan-plus a square metre. The price is particularly high, considering the local government reported the first half-year average price of property in the city per square metre was 7,228 yuan, up 5.6 per cent over the same period a year earlier.

Hisense Yandao International has sold about 90 per cent of the units in the first phase of its project featuring 10 huge cylindrical buildings next to the Olympic Sailing Centre. The units were selling for about 15,000 yuan per square metre.

Luneng Zhongsheng Real Estate Development also experienced a favourable response to pre-sales of its Maidao Jin'an project for delivery next year. More than 50 per cent of the units in its first phase of five buildings were sold in August for delivery in 2010. The project, which started last year, should take three to five years to complete.

In Chenyang, a north-central district that was previously industrial, numerous residential projects are being constructed, including A Glamorous City. The 507-unit project by state-owned developer Vanke, features multi-storey and high-storey buildings either roughcast or with 'exquisite furnishings'.

The units, ranging from 85 to 186 square metres, are priced from 5,680 yuan to 7,280 yuan per square metre. The first offering came on the market in May.