America Modern Green: Creating a Holistic Community in Texas

Updated: 2015-11-10 06:45

By MAY ZHOU(China Daily USA)

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America Modern Green: Creating a Holistic Community in Texas

Qiao Tingfu, CEO of AMG and executive vice president of Modern Land China, talks about America Modern Green’s $300 million development project in Houston. May Zhou / China Daily

Quietly and without any fanfare, America Modern Green (AMG), a US subsidiary a Beijing-based developer traded on the Hong Kong stock market, recently began construction on a $300 million community development project in Pearland, Texas, a suburb 15 minutes south of the renowned Texas Medical Center in Houston.

The project, a multi-use community called Ivy District, is being developed on 48 acres acquired in 2013. When completed, the 800,000 square-foot district will include a 150-room hotel with a 15,000-square-foot conference center, office space, retail stores and 575 urban-style residential units.

"We just started to clear the land," said Gavin Liang, general manager of AMG. "We expect to complete constructing roads and the infrastructure by the end of next year or early 2017 before we construct the Continuing Care Retirement Community and club house — Phase I of our project."

The community will be designed in a way to support a walkable lifestyle and include a 15-acre public park along the Clear Creek.

AMG's parent company, "Modern Land China is one of the largest green real estate development companies in the world," said Qiao Tingfu, CEO of AMG and vice-president of Modern Land China (MLC). "We focus on energy conservation, technology-based, comfortable and full-life-cycle community for all ages in real estate development."

Green technology is a big component in MLC's developments. Since being established in 2001, the company has invested more than 100 million renminbi ($15.62 million) in technology and has registered more than 200 patents. Its use of energy-conservation technology has won the company 10 awards for green building in China and elsewhere, according to Qiao.

Modern Land China brands its green practice as MOMA (The Museum of Modern Architecture) technology and has developed more than 10 projects globally. Its ground-source technology system provides heat in winter and cooling in summer by recycling ground water through pipes in floors and walls and using relatively little energy.

Modern Land China expanded overseas in 2003 and has developed projects in Australia and Canada, said Qiao.

Thanks to its good practices and focus on sustainability, its subsidiary Modern Green Canada was selected as an industrial partner by the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability of the University of British Columbia to create a more sustainable environment.

The company also donated to the centre the Modern Green Development Auditorium, an energy-conservation building that cost C$10 million to build.

"We chose Houston because the city is like China's Shenzhen – economically dynamic with a promising future," Qiao said, adding that Texas Medical Center, being only 10 miles away, was a key consideration in choosing the location.

Speaking of the Ivy District's conceptual design, Qiao said that his visits to retirement homes led him to realize that elderly people thirst for opportunities to interact with younger people.

"I believe that children and young people can also benefit from interacting with seniors," he said. "After all, they have gained much wisdom through their journeys in life, but we have to create a space for such interaction to benefit all."

Qiao said the Ivy District is designed in such a way that restaurants, cinemas, home services, rehabilitation and medical services, although geared toward seniors, will be shared by other people who live in the community's condos, townhouses and lofts. This will create a communal space as well as make the service more economically efficient, he said.

Ivy District is not the company's first project designed with a holistic approach. Qiao said; its flagship project, the Grand MOMA in Beijing, was designed with a similar philosophy — green living space for all ages.

Designed by American architect Steven Holl, the Grand MOMA was inspired by French painter Henri Matisse’s masterpiece Dancing. Overhanging corridors connect eight residential buildings, like the arms connecting the dancers in a circle in the painting. The corridor space functions as gym, cafe, bar and library where people meet, which brings together people in the neighborhood. An art hotel and a multi-function cinema give the complex a focal point.

The Grand MOMA, located between Ring 2 and Ring 3 in Beijing, was named one of 10 Best Architectural Marvels by Time magazine in 2007. The other two that made the list also are in China, the "Bird's Nest" stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics and the CCTV News Tower.

The Ivy District project is 65 percent funded by AMG. The remaining funding comes through its EB-5 immigration-investment program under the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. The EB-5 program is managed by its subsidiary, Crown Point Regional Center. There are no bank loans in the project.

"We have already enlisted 30 EB-5 investors from China and got the remaining funds," said Qiao, adding that the high ratio of company investment makes its EB-5 program reliable and attractive.

Earlier this year, AMG established another subsidiary, AMG Capital, LLC, to manage real estate investments in the United States on behalf of high net worth individuals, financial institutions, trusts, insurance companies and private equity firms.

"We want to become the expert in global asset and investment management for Chinese, and meet their needs for immigration, education, housing and healthcare at our one-stop shop," said Qiao.

When completed, the Ivy District is projected to generate nearly $3 million in tax revenue for Pearland and create more than 900 jobs.

AMG recently entered the Seattle market and is planning a project there with the same concept, Qiao said.