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By Nicole Atoyan ’17
Photo: 2016 REA/Chazen Trip participants visiting Ping An Financial Center, a new office development by KPF and the third-tallest building in China.
Forty students from Columbia Business School attended a study tour to Singapore and Southern China from March 13th through March 20th. Also in attendance were Professor Lynne B. Sagalyn, Earle W. Kazis and Benjamin Schore Professor of Real Estate, and Executive-in-Residence Leanne Lachman. The trip was sponsored by the Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business and the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate. The trip was organized by Charles Griffith ’16, Cheryl Kong ’16, Durrell Mack ’17, Joseph Noon ’17, and Erin Williams ’16.
Singapore and Southern China (specifically Guangzhou and Shenzhen) were chosen for this year’s trip due to high growth and rapid development in both areas from a real estate perspective. Both locations experience immense governmental involvement from concept inception, planning and entitlements through development.
Singapore and Guangzhou starkly contrast one another. Singapore is a financial hub with a steady supply of foreign tenants from the finance sector. Guangzhou and Shenzhen continue to build real estate supply in anticipation of growth from domestic tenants, namely high technology, finance, and service firms.
The group’s first day in Singapore consisted of a cultural tour full of sightseeing and tasting the local foods. The group embarked on a bus tour shortly after arriving in Singapore and checking into the hotel. The group visited Little India, Chinatown, and Gardens by the Bay – a two-building conservatory showcasing over 250,000 types of fauna that portray depictions of different landscapes and ecosystems. The gardens are also an exemplar of energy conservation measures and green-building implemented by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
The conservatory is built on 250 acres of reclaimed land in Marina Bay. Rainwater is collected from the building’s surface and channeled to the cooling system which is connected to the fauna in the building, namely the Supertrees. These trees vent hot air and cool circulated water. One of the world’s tallest indoor waterfalls was the most impressive feature of the conservatory. Gardens by the Bay was the last stop on the cultural bus tour – a very welcome respite from the 100% humidity and over 90-degree (F) outside temperatures! We ended the day with a riverboat tour that allowed us to witness the architecture of colonized Singapore and modernized Singapore. Our first group dinner of traditional Chinese cuisine punctuated the day.
The following three days in Singapore were comprised of company visits and group dinners. The group was fortunate to converse with both private multinational corporations and governmental authorities.
Monday began with a visit to Cushman & Wakefield where the group learned about trends in the local office market and how the financial services and technology firms continue to drive office market growth in the region. Later in the day, the group met with CapitaLand and learned about new residential and commercial developments in the region via models. Arthur Lang, CFO of CapitaLand, discussed the firm’s future real estate strategy which included a focus on retail centers and an expansion into non-core activities such as senior housing. The day ended with a discussion with the Urban Redevelopment Authority where the group learned about the URA’s overall planning strategies in Singapore, the redevelopment plans for the downtown Central Business District, and the Marina Bay Financial District.
Tuesday began with a tour of the Housing Development Board. An intriguing presentation gave the group insight into the government’s desire for social integration, equal housing opportunities (especially for the poor), and the future development of public housing. Tan Chew Ling ’09, the Group Director of Estate Administration and Property, described a public housing tenancy and sale, and discussed the government’s costs and benefits of providing high-quality public housing to citizens.
The group then visited GIC – Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund. Goh Kok Huat, COO and President, delivered remarks regarding GIC’s investment philosophy and desire for core assets and discussed the firm’s asset strategy for future investment in the United States and Asia.
Later in the day, the group met with Blackstone’s CEO and Managing Director Alan Miyasaki, who discussed his personal career trajectory and how he transferred from Blackstone’s New York headquarters to Singapore. The group learned of the challenges in opening an office in Singapore and navigating its initial investments there.
The group also visited the Marina Bay Sands, a mixed-use project comprised of a hotel, casino, and luxury retail shopping center. President and CEO George Tanasijevich described the project at length, from inception to development on reclaimed land, and how governmental approval for a casino was secured. The group then enjoyed an alumni reception at Spago on the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The view from the roof and sights of the Singapore skyline over the renowned infinity pool was breathtaking. Over 20 alumni attended, in addition to speakers from company visits earlier in the day. The group enjoyed remarks by Professor Sagalyn and Olivier de Poulpiquet ‘94, Managing Director of Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing, who hosted the evening.
Wednesday was spent traveling from Singapore to Guangzhou. Upon arrival to Guangzhou, the group enjoyed a cultural tour of the city which included visits to the Chen Chan Academy, a preparatory academy for male family members of the Chan Dynasty in advance of their imperial examinations. The group also visited the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees and Shamian Island, ending with a boat cruise along the breathtaking Pearl River Delta – the main waterway studded with modern real estate developments such as a sports arena, television stations, and luxury apartment buildings.
Thursday began with a tour of Jones Lang LaSalle’s office and an insightful presentation by Trent Prestagar as he told the group about major office market trends in the Pearl River Delta region and the domestic growth of financial services and high technology firms that are spurring office market development and rental growth.
The group also toured two of the most prestigious malls in Guangzhou. Both Sun Hung Kai and Swire presented their retail developments, discussing their positioning strategies and desire to attract consumers for a shopping, dining and entertainment experience unparalleled by e-commerce.
Fosun, a large multinational real estate developer, investor, and operator, also hosted the group in its offices for a discussion of its current and future investment strategy in Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta. The most interesting point of discussion was its cooperation with the central government and its role in real estate development. The hotel generously hosted a happy hour for the group, complete with a dim sum bar and dancing to live musical entertainment.
Friday was spent traveling to Shenzhen to meet with Vanke – a large residential real estate developer in China. Headquartered in Shenzhen and listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the firm develops, manages, and divests properties in over sixty cities in mainland China. The group also toured Vanke’s Qianhai development that day: a business park with an eight-year investment life which will be redeveloped into a more modern office and mixed-use project. The capstone of the day was the group’s visit to the Ping An Financial Center construction site. The marketing and leasing team led the students on a tour through the 56th floor of the 118-floor office building. The site was remarkable and employed state-of-the-art building systems. Ping An, a large insurance company, will occupy fifty percent of the 600-meter-tall building and will hand-select the office and creative tenants to occupy the rest of the building. The group ended its day with a final dinner and one free day in Hong Kong.
Instrumental to the success of this study tour are Olivier de Poulpiquet ‘94 of Morgan Stanley, Euleen Goh Yiu Kiang of DBS Group Holdings & DBS Bank, Goh Kok Huat of GIC, Professor Lynne Sagalyn, Leanne Lachman, the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia Business School, the speakers and hosts of our meetings and the student organizers who led the effort in conjunction with the Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business. To you, we offer our sincere thanks and gratitude for a remarkable trip!
View the Photo Slideshow!