China’s Oceanwide Holdings Looks to Transform First and Mission Site in San Francisco

1st and Mission

UPDATED: February 9, 2015

By Nancy Amdur

Beijing-based Oceanwide Holdings Co., Ltd. is making a grand entrance into San Francisco with its recently announced plans to spend nearly $300 million for a development site at First and Mission streets, which is slated to house the city’s second-tallest office building. The San Francisco Business Times reported that the company could spend as much as $1.6 billion in total investment to develop the total structure.

[contextly_sidebar id=”lRWAkQmD4MmruWqU3Zn8jjChI8xVkBv0″]Oceanwide, through its wholly owned subsidiary Tohigh Property Investment, LLC,  agreed to pay $296 million for the 1.17-acre site being sold by San Francisco-based developer TMG Partners and its capital partner Northwood Investors LLC, a global real estate investment and management firm. The property is across from Salesforce Tower, which at 1,070 feet will be San Francisco’s tallest building when its construction is complete in 2017.

Oceanwide was drawn to the 50 First St. site partly as a way to deepen its real estate presence in the United States, according to an Oceanwide news release posted on ChinaSF’s Web site. ChinaSF, a nonprofit that is part of the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, works to connect with Chinese companies looking to invest in the city and helped link Oceanwide to this deal.

“The company is actively implementing [its] overseas investment strategy in order to compete in the international marketplace,” Oceanwide’s news release said.

“The First and Mission project will be the second-tallest landmark development in the heart of San Francisco. This investment will significantly improve the reputation of the company and its overseas investments,” the release said.

The company also noted that it would gain a piece of the city’s in-demand office market where new supply is limited due to Prop. M, which caps the amount of office space that can be developed.

TMG’s development calls for building two mixed-use towers with approximately 2 million square feet of office, retail, residential and hotel space. The company submitted an environmental evaluation application to San Francisco’s Planning Department in July that outlines plans for an approximately 850-foot tower that would contain 1.1 million square feet of office space and about 106 residential units along with retail space. A later proposed 60-foot crown would take the tower to 910 feet. A second 605-foot tower would include 168 hotel rooms and 110 residential units above lobbies and ground-floor retail space, the application said. A total of approximately 59,000 square feet of retail space would be included in the project. The project is still under review by the city, said Gina Simi, a planning department spokeswoman. TMG declined to comment.

TMG and Northwood purchased the site in 2013. London-based Foster + Partners and San Francisco-based Heller Manus Architects are the architects on the project. Oceanwide signed the purchase agreement in November but is still negotiating with TMG on final project management details, said Darlene Chiu Bryant, the executive director of ChinaSF.

The property is in the city’s Transbay district and was rezoned in 2012 under the Transbay Plan, which was designed to encourage density around the Transbay Terminal.

San Francisco is among the U.S. cities attracting Chinese investors, partly due to the city’s strong economy, Chiu Bryant said. Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, New York, Boston and Chicago also are target markets for Chinese investors, she added.

In 2013, Shenzhen-based China Vanke Co. Ltd. partnered with New York-based Tishman Speyer to develop the Lumina condominium project at Main and Folsom streets in San Francisco. That deal also helped raise the city’s profile among Chinese investment companies, Chiu Bryant said. China Vanke is one of the country’s largest residential property developers.

Oceanwide made its first U.S. purchase in December 2013 when it acquired the Fig Central condominium and hotel project across from the Staples Center on Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. That purchase also was made through its Tohigh Property Investment subsidiary. Additionally, the company last month reportedly bought a 186-acre site on a former Sonoma Valley ranch near Kenwood that is approved for a resort and winery.

Oceanwide carries a diverse portfolio with investments in sectors including banking, energy, media and real estate.

Image courtesy of Foster + Partners

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