How a development can change a city

 —  Article by Natalie Holmes
Wuhan Tiandi
Image credit: Shiu on Land

“The building is clearly of a higher quality than anything else in town, and it’s led to the evolution of the surrounding area.”

The Wuhan Tiandi development brought the first international grade area office building to Wuhan in China when it first opened its doors five years ago. It sparked a wave of development which has completely transformed a once rundown area of the city. “It’s our great honor to see how this area has evolved from a neglected part of town to a high-profile location today,” says Li Jie, managing director of JLL Wuhan.

Set in a peripheral area formerly given over to warehousing and logistics, the overall Wuhan Tiandi site is sprawling, comprising a mixed-use community of over 1.5 million square meters on the Yangtze riverfront. Within it is the office building, covering around 59,000 square meters.

“This building is a pioneer in terms of physical specifications,” explains Jie. “It has a 2.75-meter clear ceiling height and is the first in the city to be equipped with a raised floor. Almost every physical certification is the best in Wuhan,” he adds. It also rates highly in the sustainability stakes: The office tower is the first one in Wuhan to receive the LEED-CS Gold Certification while the Wuhan Tiandi area is the first district-scale commercial development in China to be certified by the LEED Neighborhood Developmentpilot scheme.

Balancing the old with the new

In addition to the office building, Wuhan Tiandi is home to a shopping street and mall, residential areas, and, potentially, a Four Seasons hotel. There are also nine historical buildings on the site, designed by Benjamin Wood who led the design team responsible for Xintiandi, a high-concept pedestrianized shopping, dining and entertainment district in Shanghai.

“When the historical buildings were handed over to the developers there was an opportunity to leverage the cultural heritage value,” says Jie. Covering approximately 50,000 square meters, the historical section was part of the Japanese Concession until the 1940s. Today their renovations reflect a balance between tradition and modernity, adding aesthetic diversity to the community.

Development has positively impacted the former industrial zone. “Completion of the shopping street and office building immediately gave rise to changes in the locale,” says Jie. “Lots of rundown houses were converted to bars, cafes, and restaurants.”

The local economy has also seen advantages. “When the office building first became available, it charged almost 50 percent more than average for the area. To date, rent has grown to RMB 155 (US $24) per square meter, with an occupancy rate of 95 percent. So this building actually promoted Wuhan’s overall office market, and also catalyzed rental level growth,” says Jie.

Despite its decentralized location, the site strongly competes with the CBD and other areas. “Ten years ago, no one could have imagined that major banks and insurance companies would want to be based here,” says Jie. “But now, this area is home to at least three foreign banks”.

Though it took two or three years to win popularity in the market, Wuhan Tiandi is today “the most trendy, fashionable area in Wuhan,” says Jie. “If you want to entertain and impress your clients or friends, you simply have to come here.”

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