International Property

Flushing, New York draws mainland buyers with Asian-inspired condo projects

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 7:28pm

Property developers are focusing on a small neighbourhood in Queens, New York, erecting large glassy condominium complexes, not unlike those in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, to tap the area’s rapidly expanding Chinese population.

Flushing, dubbed “the Chinese Manhattan”, in recent years as the neighbourhood in the borough of Queens rises to become one of the largest Chinese communities in the US.

About 70 per cent of the borough’s 72,000 residents are ethnically Asian, representing a sharp rise from 1990 when census data showed that Asians made up 22.1 per cent of the local population.

An official report in 2013 highlighted that about two-thirds of Flushing’s population was foreign-born.

As a result of the booming Chinese population, developers are building projects catering to the lifestyles of Asia’s urbanites, characterised by easy access to public transit and shopping.

Onex Real Estate Partners’ Sky View Parc is one example. The three-building condo development sits atop a retail mall adjacent to the 7 rail line. The project from the Toronto-based developer bears a strong resemblance to the mega-sized retail and residential structures built above MTR stations in Hong Kong.

Helen Lee, the sales director of Sky View Parc, said large-scale mixed-use projects are rare in New York as zoning laws and competing rights to land make it difficult to secure a large plot.

“Chinese love to live close to family members and favour projects which cultivate a sense of community,” she said.

“We have luxury class units. We have a shopping mall and an Asian supermarket. We have valet parking. You really don’t have to leave our building for anything.”

The project built over a 14-acre site features 1,200 condominium units that will be completed in two phases. The 2.5 million square foot first phase included 448 condominiums and an 800,000 sq ft retail complex named the Sky View Center.

Lee said the second phase, featuring 750 condos, at Grand at Sky View Parc is currently up for sale.

“As of today, we have sold about 80 per cent of these units,” Lee said, adding that the first phase of the project sold out in 2012.

Mainland Chinese buyers bought about 20 per cent of the 448 units released in the first phase, according to The New York Times.

Lee said prices for the remaining units at phase two range from US$700,000 to US$2.6 million.

She added that Onex had partnered with lenders to help provide financing for mainland buyers who have difficulty transferring funds out of China owing to capital controls.

James Zhong, 22, a student from Guangzhou who currently studies at New York University, said the condo complex exudes a palpable sense of Chinese community.

He said the project’s six-acre landscaped garden, including two pools, a basketball court and two tennis courts, surrounded by the residential buildings, reminds him of a “Xiaoqu”, or an enclosed and gated compound associated with luxury developments in China.

He said some mainlanders who bought units in the project have struggled to adjust to life in Flushing. In some instances, these buyers bought off plan in Guangzhou from local sales representatives.

“A friend of mine from Guangzhou bought two units when phase one opened,” he said. “But his family ended up moving back to Guangzhou after finding life in Flushing – and even the US at large – not cosmopolitan enough,” he said. “So his family has sold a unit and now they are waiting to sell the other.”

Meanwhile, competition among property developers has been heating up amid growing interest in Flushing.

New York-based developer Wing-Fung Realty Group has filed plans to build a three-building, 326-unit complex at Flushing Point Plaza, on a site nearby Sky View Parc.

Meanwhile, Beijing-based developer Xinyuan Real Estate bought RKO Keith’s Theater, a landmark movie palace, for US$66 million last year. The property developer says it want to transform the site into a 269-unit luxury condo complex.