ULI Mainland China held its 2014 Winter Meeting in early December in Shanghai, culminating a year of deeper engagement among ULI, major Chinese real estate firms, and urban planners—all of which are concerned about how China’s rapidly urbanizing cities can accommodate growth while using principles of sustainability, healthy communities, and people-oriented design.
About 500 real estate and land use professionals attended the conference, held at a Four Points by Sheraton hotel at Life Hub @ Daning, an open-air, mixed-use retail development in Shanghai’s Zhabei District. The project is a strong example of urban regeneration occurring throughout Shanghai as officials seek to remake impoverished and underserved neighborhoods as amenity-rich destinations for the city’s rising middle class. (Read the ULI case study on Life Hub @ Daning.)
The meeting was the third annual gathering hosted by ULI Mainland China, which has seen its individual and corporate membership grow significantly in recent years. From 2012 to 2014, individual membership has nearly quadrupled to 410 members from 110.
Last year, two high-profile real estate firms—China Vanke and Ping An Real Estate—joined ULI as corporate sustaining members, adding to a long list of Chinese developers that already belong to ULI. The two companies are exercising their investment muscle in overseas markets through high-profile purchases and partnerships. In 2013, Vanke teamed with Tishman Speyer to develop luxury condominiums in San Francisco, and Ping An purchased the historic Lloyd’s of London building in the City of London.
Urban regeneration in Shanghai was a major theme of the ULI Mainland China meeting, with panel discussions focusing on various aspects of the topic—from planning and design to investment and development risks and opportunities posed by urban regeneration projects. These discussions furthered conversations that began last fall with the release of Ten Principles of Urban Regeneration: Making Shanghai a Better City, funded in part by an Urban Innovation Grant from the ULI Foundation. (Watch a video of the report’s release.)
Keynote speeches touching on themes in the report were delivered by Henry Cheng, chief executive officer of Chongbang Groups, chair of ULI Mainland China, and a ULI trustee, and Zhao Baojing, vice president of the Shanghai Urban Planning and Design Research Institute, which is run by the Shanghai municipal government.
ULI Asia Pacific’s nascent product council program also held half-day meetings focused on six topics: housing, retail-focused mixed-use development, urban regeneration, hospitals and senior care facilities, investment, and sustainability.
“By adopting the product council meeting format on six relatively diverse topics, the Winter Meeting was a significant step for Mainland China to further appraise the potential for this important ULI activity,” Cheng said. “We were greatly encouraged by the response of participants, and this augured well for the formation of formal product councils in China.”