A MULTI-billion-dollar residential development financed by a Chinese-American joint venture company will be built near one of Beijing's most scenic and precious historical sites - Yuan Ming Yuan, or the former imperial Garden of Gardens. Named after the Qing Dynasty imperial residence, Yuan Ming Yuan Garden Villa is among the few property projects able to be built on a prime site after a Beijing land sale late last year. Chow Hoi-bun, executive director of CNA International Incorporated, said the sale of this valuable site for commercial developments had surprised investors. ''The Beijing government recently gave approval to sell several pieces of prime site for commercial developments and the [last] land sale has already had some impact on the property market,'' he said. ''But one of the surprises was the granting of Yuan Ming Yuan Garden Villa's site, which is situated in the northwest rural area of Beijing.'' It is understood that areas surrounding the site are considered too valuable to be developed. At most, only gardens and parks were expected to be built in the vicinity. Mr Chow said the development faced a vast mountain range, while to the east was Qinghua University and the old site of Yi He Yuan, the summer palace of Zhi Xi, the last emperor's mother. ''To the south is the old site of Yuan Ming Yuan. The approved land area is about 750,000 square metres and it has long been considered one of the most valuable areas in Beijing,'' he said. ''The developer, Beijing Yuan Ming Yuan Garden Villa, has plans to imitate some of the architecture of Yuan Ming Yuan in the development to boost and enhance its scenic surroundings.'' The developer also plans to invest more than HK$2 billion in the project and ''build the most luxurious residential development in the region'', said Mr Chow. The development is expected to be put up for pre-sale next month. The major shareholder is American. The others are Beijing Hi Ding Property Developing and Zhuhai Xinqi Industrial Holdings. ''According to our construction plan, the density of the property units is very low. There will only be 190 villas and 1,080 residential units within the development. ''Over half of the space will be used to retain the greenery and imitations of ancient constructions and architecture of the original Yuan Ming Yuan.'' Other facilities within the development will include Hiyentong, a five-floor club house with cinema, nightclub and supermarket. The units and villas will be built in traditional Chinese and European style respectively. ''We've planned to push the project on to the market in both China and Hong Kong at the same time and we believe it will perform well on both sides of the border,'' Mr Chow said.