New York developer bets on $800 million project ‘to make Queens feel like Shanghai’

November 18, 2021

Michael Lee, the chief executive of real estate developer F&T Group, moved to Flushing in the borough of Queens of New York City from Taiwan in 1982, when it was still a relatively sleepy neighborhood. He immediately got to work, building small developments, including a day-care center, his daughter, who manages the firm’s day-to-day operations, recently told The Wall Street Journal.

Flushing, which is home to one of New York City’s big three Chinatowns, already has established itself as the top U.S. destination for Asian people, said Queens Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Grech, as well as New York’s fourth-largest commercial hub.

The Tangram project will cement that status, Michael Lee told the Journal. “It will be a destination.”

A tangram is a traditional Chinese geometric puzzle and here refers to the various building elements and combinations the developer considered when creating the complex of immersive retail, residential, office, and hotel space.

The development covers a city block and includes Tangram House West, a 132-unit condominium with glass curtain walls and a minimalist design.

When it opens next summer, residents will have use of a 60-foot indoor heated saltwater lap pool; as well as a one-acre interior garden with 50 cherry trees and a 3,500-square-foot pavilion with lounges and meditation areas. Units will sell from $680,000 for a 484-square-foot studio to $3.39 million for a 2,300-square-foot penthouse.

Embryologist Harry Hou recently bought a two-bedroom apartment at Tangram for his elderly mother, who previously lived in an apartment complex two blocks away. Tangram will enable her to shop and dine out without leaving the campus. “And it really felt like an upgrade,” he said.

A 208-room Renaissance Hotel also is under construction, which the Lees hope will appeal to tourists from Asia and other locations who prefer to use Flushing as a home base when visiting New York City.

Offices that can be purchased rather than leased are popular in the Asian community. The project’s Tangram Tower is an 85,000-square-foot, 48-unit office condominium. It is already largely occupied by doctors, banks, and accounting and law offices.

But the development’s heart will be the mall offering mainstream versions of the options offered on the crowded streets of Flushing, where tiny shops hawk sesame buns and skewered pork intestines from windows along the sidewalk.

In line with that vision the final development will boast a 24,000-square-foot food court with a futuristic cyberpunk feel and 15 vendors selling fare ranging from Korean-style hot dogs to Japanese Ramen.

Research contact: @WSJ