When Anna Mae Koo inherited a small industrial plot in Tuen Mun from her grandfather in 2016, she decided her first project would benefit the community and not be purely for profit.
She hoped to build a community of creative enterprises and bring like-minded people to Tuen Mun. “When I spoke to industry experts about my plan, most said a high-end industrial project would not find tenants in the district, which is considered old and inaccessible. I was advised to build a data centre, which would be easier to lease and would fetch good money,” said Koo. She is the director of Sage Properties, which focuses on commercial and industrial assets in Hong Kong.
Koo decided to proceed with her plan and demolished two low-rise cold storage buildings on the site to make way for 99Commons, a trendy and stylish 18-floor industrial building. The project, which took four years to complete and cost more than HK$1 billion (US$129 million), has 338 units.
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With an average monthly rent of HK$20 per square foot, a 450 sq ft studio costs less than HK$10,000 a month, which is affordable for start-ups, Koo said. About 100 units on four floors have been leased out so far, to companies in music production, trading and technology, she added.
“It is amazing to see one-third of our tenants coming from walk-in customers instead of being referring by agents. They signed leases with us after visiting the project in person,” Koo said. The tenants were willing to pay more for a premium property, as compared with old industrial buildings nearby that were available for as low as HK$8 per square foot, she added.
Of course, Koo is no stranger to premium property. She is the daughter of Vivien Chan, who is known as Hong Kong’s “queen of serviced apartments”. Chan’s V Group owns luxury serviced apartments in Wan Chai, Happy Valley and Causeway Bay.
99Commons offers four types of units ranging in size from 450 sq ft to 2,000 sq ft. Some have floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views of Castle Peak as well as private podiums.
A 2,000 sq ft common area called The Social offers a self-service coffee bar, pool table and an outdoor seating area exclusively for tenants’ use. Audio-visual systems and meeting rooms are also available for booking. The whole project has a gross floor area of 240,000 sq ft.
Access will improve after the opening of the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Tunnel in December last year, said Nicky Cheung, associate director of Centaline Property Agency’s industrial department. Travel time from Tuen Mun to the international airport has been cut to 10 to 20 minutes by car from an hour previously. “The overall improvement of infrastructure will also attract companies in Sheung Shui and Yuen Long to Tuen Mun,” he added.
Before joining the family’s real estate business, Koo, who read law at Cambridge University, worked as an external adviser to CapitaLand’s C31V corporate venture fund. She helped evaluate technology start-ups in the real estate space globally.
“I could have done better [in terms of revenue] if this site was used as a data centre. But that would have been a waste, as the area is surrounded by mountains and greenery. I preferred building a place for people to work and play in. Something that would benefit the community,” she said.
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Sage Properties will expand by acquiring existing old commercial buildings and land for future developments. “99Commons will be our signature building. As a new player, we have to build something unique to make ourselves different from others,” Koo said.
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