The influence of Chinese investment on real estate, well documented in New York City, is drifting across the Hudson River to Jersey City, New Jersey.
China Overseas America Inc on Jan 28 broke ground for 99 Hudson, a 79-story, 900-foot condominium tower that will become the tallest building in New Jersey.
The building will surpass the 781-foot Goldman Sachs structure nearby at 30 Hudson Street and will contain 18,000 square feet of commercial and retail space and more than 600 parking spaces.
“We are proud to bring 99 Hudson to life and represent the high standard of excellence of China … and develop a marriage with the Jersey City community to create 2,000 construction jobs and business opportunities for the local establishments,” said Cindy Xu, president of China Overseas America Inc.
China Overseas America’s parent company is China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd, Hong Kong, which itself is a subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corp (CSCEC) in Beijing. CSCEC is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and was ranked 37th among Fortune Global 500 companies in 2015 and tops on the Engineering News-Record’s Global Contractors list in 2014.
“We are committed and proud to have our project advance the great growth of Jersey City,” Xu said. “This building will literally have the best view in the world, as it’s going to have panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the New York City skyline.”
“We think this area has a good value. … Pricewise, it is very competitive compared with Manhattan,” Xu told China Daily. Xu said that the company will consider future opportunities in Jersey City “if there are good chances”.
When asked if China Overseas will seek investment from the US EB-5 visa program, Xu said “we are studying it now, haven’t decided yet”.
The EB-5 program rewards foreign investors with green cards for investing from $500,000 to $1 million in US projects, and for creating and preserving American jobs.
The building is being designed by the multinational architecture firm Perkins Eastman, whose representatives, along with the mayor, members of the Jersey City Council and Planning Board, China Overseas America Inc and Plaza Construction attended the groundbreaking.
Ming Wu, AIA, principal with Perkins Eastman, said “99 Hudson will mark a new milestone for Jersey City’s resurgence as a truly great city in which to live and work. For decades now, people on the west side of the Hudson have marveled at Manhattan’s skyline, but today Jersey City is developing its own dynamic city, along with a world-class skyline. To play a part in this transformation is quite an honor.”
Wu’s firm has an office in Shanghai and has designed more than 100 major projects across China, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, the Hopkins-Nanjing University Center for Chinese-American Studies and the Ningbo metro station.
The half-billion-dollar tower, with an estimated completion date of 2019, will have close to 800 condos and will “dramatically remake the Jersey City skyline”, said Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop.
The Jersey City housing market continues to grow at a rapid pace, and 99 Hudson will be New Jersey’s first large-scale condominium project in more than five years.
The development also will include almost 7,500 square feet of new public plazas and open green space as well as key additions to existing commercial and retail storefronts along Greene, Grand and Hudson streets.
The high rises of Jersey City are a testament to the economic drawing power of financial services firms, which have transformed the once-industrial Hudson County seat into a 21st century player.
Its waterfront location and PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) rail service position Jersey City as a “Wall Street West”, and it is now frequently referred to as New York City’s “sixth borough”.
Fulop, who has been to China, said China Overseas’ investment, especially in a condominium project, is an expression of optimism about Jersey City and reinforces its progress toward becoming a “global city”.
“This is an historic project that will not only reshape the skyline, but will also be a catalyst for additional investment from China and other global investors,” Fulop told China Daily.
With a population of more than 262,000, Jersey City is on pace to surpass Newark (population 277,000) as the Garden State’s largest city, possibly by the end of 2016.
Jersey City Councilwoman Candice Osborne said 99 Hudson will help create a skyline to rival the one across the Hudson River. It will show Manhattanites that “our skyline’s pretty cool, too”, Osborne said.
If built today, 99 Hudson would be the sixth tallest residential/mixed-use building in the US, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a group considered the international arbiter of skyscrapers. The new building would eclipse 900 North Michigan Avenue, a mixed-use tower in Chicago that is 869 feet tall.
The Jersey City development is part of a broader effort by Fulop’s administration to transform the city into the state’s leading job creator and attract hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to the region.
Fulop, who will turn 39 later this month, is an emerging star in New Jersey politics and has been mentioned regularly as a potential gubernatorial candidate for the Democrats.
The former trader at Goldman Sachs left the business world and joined the US Marine Corps after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He eventually was stationed in Iraq. After his tour of duty, he returned to the US and worked in financial services again before entering politics.
The city he manages is in the midst of a frenzied construction boom and has the most homebuilding permits of any New Jersey municipality. Through November, Jersey City had approved 2,595 building permits, almost 10 percent of the 28,114 in the state, according to the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Fulop told NorthJersey.com that there are almost 7,000 housing units being built in the city, and almost 8,000 have been completed since he took office in 2013.
The 99 Hudson project is the first major Chinese-backed development in Jersey City, according to Fulop. However, China Construction America, which is based in Jersey City and is a sister company of China Overseas America, has multimillion-dollar contracts to rebuild parts of the 83-year-old Pulaski Skyway, a four-lane causeway that carries routes 1 and 9 between Jersey City and Newark.
“This is a transformative project,” Fulop told Politickernj.com. “It is symbolic of our continued growth as a world-class metropolis. The fact is, more people than ever want to call Jersey City home, and more businesses than ever want to invest here.”
Jersey City also has one of Wall Street’s former titans investing in a business venture, albeit one who was involved in the financial crisis of 2008.
Former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld and his Chinese business partner announced on Jan 28 that they’ve chosen a Jersey City-based stock exchange as their first step toward helping Chinese small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) list their shares in the United States. Fuld’s financial advisory firm, Matrix Advisors in New York, and Suzhou Industrial Park Kaida Venture Capital co-invested in the National Stock Exchange.
Wang Yulong, chairman of Suzhou Industrial Park Kaida Venture Capital, said that the China Securities Regulatory Commission has loosened its requirements for Chinese SMEs to list on foreign stock exchanges. It is their primary goal to create a “credible platform” for that purpose, he said.
In November 2014, the two men jointly announced the partnership in Beijing.
“For me, at my stage, my age, it’s only about relationship, picking the right partner that I trust, that has credibility,” Fuld said.
He has been accused of helping to precipitate the financial crisis and for the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Fuld ran Lehman Brothers from the firm’s 1994 spinoff from American Express until 2008, when the 158-year-old Wall Street firm filed for bankruptcy.
China has made some news in that other city on the Hudson in recent years, including such spectacular deals as the $1.95 billion purchase of the Waldorf Astoria New York hotel by the Anbang Insurance Group Co in October 2014.
Also, Hudson Yards, a massive development by the Related Companies, is in the works on Manhattan’s West Side. It will include 18 million square feet of commercial and residential development space, more than 100 shops, 20 restaurants, 5,000 residences, 14 acres of public open space, a public school and a luxury hotel. Related says it will draw more than 24 million visitors a year and create more than 23,000 construction jobs.
That project will receive some of its funding from Chinese investors through the EB-5 program.
Related Companies CEO Jeff Blau said that if EB-5 didn’t exist or were eliminated it wouldn’t derail Hudson Yards but would have increased its cost and completion timetables.
A towering presence
Ming Wu has a unique perspective on the skylines of the United States and China.
As a principal in the international architecture firm Perkins Eastman, he has designed skyscrapers and other buildings in the New York area and across China.
The New York-based firm, which established a permanent office in Shanghai in 2000, has been involved in more than 100 projects in China, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing; the Guangzhou master plan; the Hopkins-Nanjing University Center for Chinese-American Studies; the Chongqing Library; the Ningbo metro station; the Shandong University Qingdao campus and scores of others.
Wu is Chinese American and a graduate of Harvard University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
“I’m a Connecticut Yankee by birth,” was how he slyly described himself to China Daily.
His mother was originally from the Beijing area and his father from Fuzhou, although they met in the United States.
“A lot of the firm’s work and much of my work is in China,” Wu said. “Most of the work I’m personally directing is in China.”
Another project he is personally directing is 99 Hudson in Jersey City.
Wu said the bidding process for the design contract was “very competitive”, with five firms vying for the deal. But he said that he is quite familiar with China Overseas America’s parent company (China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd in Hong Kong, a subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corp in Beijing).
“When I go to Jersey City, it reminds me of China, because there’s so much construction activity everywhere you look,” he said. “There’s definitely a vibrancy there. It’s really enjoying a market resurgence. … A lot of Jersey City’s fortunes obviously ride on New York. … I really like what I see happening in Jersey City.
“The value proposition (of 99 Hudson) is really about capturing the sweeping views of the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline. That’s what we’re selling.”
The building site is a block from the waterfront esplanade in downtown Jersey City and “it really enjoys a front row seat on the Manhattan skyline”.
Wu calls a lot of the buildings going up in the area “needle towers” because of their slim profile. He said that a lot of young people working in Manhattan find Jersey City “a very attractive alternative” not only to Manhattan but to Brooklyn hot spots such as Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
“With the PATH train service, it’s a very, very easy commute to Manhattan,” he said, adding that many of the young people working in his office live in Jersey City.
Wu said the downtown is expanding quickly.
“We are busy, as are a lot of other architectural practices,” Wu said. “Jersey City really has redevelopment momentum behind it now.”
— WILLIAM HENNELLY
Contact the writer at email@example.com.
Hezi Jiang and Paul Welitzkin contributed to this story