21 March 2019

Zendai and the art of higher property values

Can a museum, a concert hall and a theatre drive up the value and returns of a commercial property? Shanghai Zendai Property (00755.HK) founder Dai Zhikang is banking on it.

Dai hopes the cultured approach will help the second-tier real estate play overcome its capital limitations and lift it into the big league. 

He learned the limits of borrowing years ago after Zendai won a bid for a landmark site in Shanghai. The company couldn’t come up with enough money to develop the project and eventually had to sell off the plot.

Realizing that capital, lots of it, is needed to fund mega projects and a rise up the property ladder, Zendai decided that it had to find a new competitive edge. Dai believes that a strong cultural element could be the game changer he’s been looking for.

Located in the heart of Pudong, Dai’s latest project, the Zendai Himalayas Center, houses the Himalayas Art Museum and the Da Guan Theatre, in addition to a hotel and a mall.

Dai is experimenting with this high-end format that will hopefully turn the property into a gathering place for all sorts of cultural activities — a centre for both entertainment and cultural education, eventually lifting the brand image and value of the entire project.

Appearing on the business talk show Boss Town, Dai showed off a painting from the Ming Dynasty, claiming that his collection can rival those of some national museums. He also reminded the audience that the popular “Talent” show will be using the Himalayas Center as a venue and pianist Lang Lang will have a concert there.

By creating a premium brand and aspirational lifestyle, Dai is hoping to offer the best, if not the biggest project. And if the model proves successful, he will apply it to upcoming projects in Nanjing.

At the moment, it seems there are more doubters than believers in this novel idea. But on the program, Dai appeared relaxed, saying that he is already sitting on a handsome profit from the appreciation in his museum collections and that he expects the brand equity of the Himalayas Center to continue to flow in coming decades.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]



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