Asian Markets Lead Urban Growth: Opportunities for Development and Management Skyrocket as Population Increases

By Little, Darnell | Journal of Property Management, March-April 2008 | Go to article overview

Asian Markets Lead Urban Growth: Opportunities for Development and Management Skyrocket as Population Increases


Little, Darnell, Journal of Property Management


In the next 20 years, the world's urban population is expected to reach 5 billion. By 2030, more than 60 percent of the globe will be urbanized, with Asia fueling the growth of individuals leaving rural areas for larger cities: Between now and 2025, the Asian continent's urban population is expected to rise by 60 percent.

CHINA TOWNS

Urban migrations are happening across India, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and South Korea. But the biggest seismic shifts are being felt in China, which is experiencing an unprecedented human migration from its rural areas to the cities.

"China is undergoing the biggest urbanization movement in human history" said Tarun Khanna, a business professor at Harvard University. "There's a social revolution that is occurring alongside the country's economic revolution."

China's current urban population is 560 million. The United Nations estimates that from now until 2020, about 20 million people a year will leave China's rural areas for the big cities. The Chinese government wants a 70 percent urbanization rate in the next 30 years, translating into 1.1 billion people living in the country's cities.

China's rigorous shift toward urbanization is creating major opportunities for real estate investors and developers. The rise in urban population is expected to create a need for an additional 6 billion square meters of housing by 2020 as well as a need for additional office and retail space and other land and infrastructure development to accommodate the population growth.

For foreign investors, the potential is huge. Tim Johnson, a partner with NBBJ, a global architecture and design firm, specializes in large-scale urban Asian design and has become well acquainted with urban development in China.

"The challenges are constantly changing," Johnson said. "We spend a lot of time traveling there and meeting our clients to try to clearly understand the cultural differences we might have. And knowing that we are being hired to bring Western ideas to the country, we want to make sure that those are appropriately assimilated to fit the cultural needs of the country."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

One of Johnson's current projects is developing an urban hub for downtown Dalian, China's second-largest commercial seaport.

Ground recently broke on this mixed-use development, expected to bring 6.6 million square feet of new commercial space into Dalian by 2010. NBBJ's vision is to create a downtown area with residential, office, retail, hotel and recreation space that will include five sculptural towers on a five-story retail base. The 70-story Dalian Center Super Tower One will reach 1,235 feet, just 15 feet shorter than the Empire State Building.

"We call it the urban oasis," Johnson said. "Knowing we're in a dense urban environment, with millions of people, we wanted to bring the natural mountain experience into an urban environment."

SONG OF THE SOUTH

One of the most rapidly urbanizing countries in the world today is South Korea, according to a United Nations report. By the end of 2007, nearly 81 percent of South Korea's 48 million people were living in cities, up from 57 percent in 1980. This urbanization rate is not only one of the highest in all of Asia, but is nearly the same as the rate in the United States, and greater than the rates for European countries like France and Italy.

"South Korea is one of the most densely populated places in all of Asia," said KyoungWan (Patrick) Nam, CPM[R], of Acres and Dollars, LLC in Seoul, Korea. "The real estate activity is incredible. It's one of the most active markets in the world."

Easily the most ambitious real estate project undertaken to date in the country is the planned New Songdo City in Incheon, South Korea. …

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