Commons eyes China cash

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Financing for large developments has dried up across the United States, so the firm behind Flushing Commons, an $825 million, mixed-use project slated to break ground next year in the heart of downtown Flushing, has turned to Chinese money for help in getting a shovel into the ground.

Since the project cannot move forward until the city approves a financing plan, the company is looking “outside traditional financing methods because those methods are not available,” according to TDC President Mike Meyer.

“Our project is $825 million. That’s a heavy lift,” he said. “Since the financial markets here are not financing ground development in any substantial way, we’re going to have to utilize unconventional forms of financing, such as going to China.”

TDC, a Chinese-American firm with offices in China, is taking a number of steps in hopes of securing Chinese loans, including hosting a delegation of Chinese developers and real estate companies in Flushing, where they will tour Onex Real Estate’s $1 billion Sky View Parc development on College Point Boulevard and share a large dinner at TDC’s Queens Crossing building on Main Street.

TDC, which is currently building a “world trade center” project in Nanjing, China, that is 2.5 times the size of the 800,000-square-foot Flushing Commons, is also pursuing funding through the federal EB-5 visa program, which provides immigrant investors — TDC is looking mostly to Chinese nationals — with a pathway to obtaining green cards for investing $500,000 or more in American projects.

“We’re unique among developers in that we have offices in Nanjing and Shanghai and we’re a Chinese-American company, so we’re well-positioned to tap into this burgeoning interest for Chinese investment in the U.S. and overseas,” Meyer said. “We’re going to try to facilitate that.”

Myra Baird Herce, chairwoman of the Flushing Chamber of Commerce, works with Meyer on the chamber and said she has first-hand knowledge that TDC is “trying to rattle the cage in China” in search of funding.

“What they’re trying to do is get the money from China,” she said. “I’m sure it would have to come from the banks.”

TDC is also looking into breaking the project into phases, which would allow the company to break ground before all of the financing is secured. But they must be ready to finance the whole project if they plan to tear down the whole municipal lot, and TDC has not yet found a feasible way to tear the lot down in phases. So financing must be found.

“That’s where all the action is now. The whole key is money. That’s all it is now,” Meyer said.

Flushing Commons is slated to be built over the 5-acre current location of Municipal Lot 1, between 37th and 39th avenues between 138th and Union streets. It will include 600 residential units, 98,000 square feet of community and facility space, 185,000 square feet of office space, 235,000 square feet of retail, 1,600 parking spaces, a 62,000-square-foot YMCA and 1.5 acres of open space.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 11:09 am, October 12, 2011
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