When Hines, a privately-owned, international real estate development and management firm, purchased a building on the south bank of Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek, it knew it had the key to something different. Shanghai’s increasingly sophisticated property market has no lack of quality offerings, but most properties exhibit a certain sameness and lack a sense of place.
The building Hines purchased, however, gave the company a unique opportunity to create serviced apartments that incorporate, rather than distance themselves from, the surrounding space.
“We thought it was interesting, because with the water feature we could do something very special,” explains Julia Fan, sales and marketing manager at Hines’s Shanghai office.
The result of a rebuilt façade and extensive renovations is River House, a 26-story commercial building featuring 307 luxurious apartment-style units. Hines calls it a “haven in the city.”
Rooms with a view
Located on South Suzhou Road near the corner of Xizang Road, River House is an elegant, modern edifice set near a string of protected old Shanghai neighborhoods. Inside, a range of units differ in layout and design, but share a visible attention to quality and detail.
Most immediately striking, however, are the views. South-facing apartments overlook nearby People’s Square through floor-to-ceiling windows, while other units face Suzhou Creek and Pudong’s Lujiazui financial district to the north and east respectively.
The view of the river and the protected neighborhoods along its banks have proven to be a big draw for buyers.
“Most people in China usually go for south-facing units,” said Fan. “But in our project, the north-facing units are much more popular.”
Similarly, lower-level apartments are typically not much in-demand in high-rise-dominated Shanghai. But in River House, Fan said, lower units facing the river at a close distance have been the most sought-after.
Those lower-floor units also bring out Hines’s attention to place and detail. To compensate for typically lower natural light levels in low, north-facing units, they have been designed to maximize available light. With high, 4.5-meter ceilings and light-colored walls and furnishings, these loft apartments are refreshingly bright and airy. Units on higher floors, with more exposure to natural light, make use of wooden surfaces and warmer hues.
As serviced apartments, all but the largest units are fully furnished. With simple, contemporary designs, residents can easily modify their apartments to suit their particular tastes. And with management provided by German property service provider GSN Property Management, buyers can be confident in the standard of the building’s concierge, housekeeping and other services.
But Fan emphasizes that some of River House’s best qualities are more subtle.
“We put in a lot of details with very high standards where people won’t see them,” she said. “We’re putting a lot underneath the ground and in between the walls rather than what’s on the surface.”
An example of this is windows that use efficient, three-layer “Low-E” glass, frequently seen in high-grade office buildings, but a rarity for apartment units. This glass, transparent to visible light, nevertheless blocks heat, vastly improving insulation – something to be thankful for during the winter.
Under foot, River House’s floors comprise four wood layers to reduce noise. And, uncommonly for Shanghai, water pipes feeding the modern bathroom fixtures and appliances are stainless steel.
“Five years from now, we want people to see the quality is still there,” Fan said.
Quality has been a hallmark of Hines properties since the company was founded in 1957. Beginning in Houston, Texas, Hines has expanded worldwide with a focus on grade A commercial and retail developments. Among its properties are the headquarters for Deloitte, Shell and Hewlett-Packard.
Coming to China in 1996, Hines moved into the residential space with a Beijing project called Embassy House. Today, Embassy House, located near the Dongzhimen embassy district, remains one of the capital’s most exclusive residential addresses. It is home to numerous ambassadors and managing directors of multinational enterprises.
Hines translated the success of Embassy House into two other Beijing projects: Park Avenue, a community of mid- and high-rise condominiums near Chaoyang Park and Hyundai Motor Tower, a grade A office building located on the Capital Airport Expressway near the Third Ring Road.
In Shanghai, Hines is involved in two projects in addition to River House. California Place, in fast-growing Yangpu district near Fudan University, is a 45-acre mixed-use development for an 80,000-person community. In Lujiazui, Pudong, 21st Century Tower will contain over 41,480 square meters of grade A office space and is the future home of Shanghai’s Four Seasons hotel.
But River House’s location sets it apart from those projects and anchors it firmly in one of the most vibrant parts of Shanghai’s urban landscape. Furthermore, as the authorities implement a program to revitalize Suzhou Creek and create a public green belt along its banks, the area around River House will become increasingly dynamic.
By embracing its unique location and implementing its usual high standards of quality, Hines has introduced a distinctive new property to Shanghai in River House.
“We don’t think there’s anything like it in the market,” said Fan.