LUNCH WITH LUCY

Kevin Cheung, whose real es­tate ca­reer spans Shang­hai and Van­cou­ver, wants to make an ar­chi­tec­tural im­pres­sion on the city he calls home

BC Business Magazine - - Contents - By Lucy Hys­lop

Landa Global Prop­er­ties co-founder Kevin Cheung

As part of a so-called as­tro­naut fam­ily, prop­erty de­vel­oper Kevin Cheung opens up about be­ing raised in Van­cou­ver while his fa­ther re­mained in China.

The 29-year-old’s fam­ily re­united only once or twice a year af­ter he im­mi­grated to Canada as a tod­dler with his mother, He­len, who stud­ied at Mcgill Uni­ver­sity and worked in the Seat­tle tech in­dus­try un­til the pair set­tled in Shaugh­nessy. A grad­u­ate of Sir Win­ston Churchill Sec­ondary School, Cheung earned a bach­e­lor of com­merce from UBC’S Sauder School of Busi­ness.

“Some­times I feel bad be­cause they were do­ing it for me, and they sac­ri­ficed a lot,” says the co-founder and CEO of Landa Global Prop­er­ties Ltd., not­ing that China’s eco­nomic growth and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties in Canada for his mom, plus the draw of learn­ing English, split the fam­ily. “I’m sure they didn’t have plans to be sep­a­rated this long from the be­gin­ning, and we cher­ished the times we did have to­gether as a fam­ily.”

Ex­plain­ing that his dad, Frank, a de­vel­oper in Shang­hai, started from “zero” fol­low­ing the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion, Cheung has much re­spect for that gen­er­a­tion. “They went through a lot; he was as­signed to a mine where he had to go down 100 me­tres dig­ging for coal and had a life ex­pec­ta­tion of 45 to 50,” he says while feast­ing (some­what in­con­gru­ously) on veal medal­lions in morel mush­room sauce at the tony Le Crocodile Restau­rant in Van­cou­ver.

Cheung fol­lowed his fa­ther into the world of prop­erty (“You just soak it up as you grow up, and I got my real es­tate li­cence when I was 19”), cut­ting his de­vel­op­ment teeth with Frank’s com­pany, Dadi Real Es­tate Co. Ltd. How­ever, he soon itched to mould his own tow­ers back on this side of the Pa­cific. “It was chal­leng­ing,” Cheung ad­mits of the three years be­fore found­ing Coal Har­bour–based Landa (orig­i­nally named Xpec), with part­ner Scott Wang, in 2013. “The main dif­fer­ence be­tween work­ing here and there was trans­parency—a yes is not a yes and no not a no in China. I didn’t en­joy it.”

For Cheung, though, the bi­con­ti­nen­tal ex­pe­ri­ence boosts Landa: “We grew up here and un­der­stand both cul­tures,” he says of the co­founders. It also prompts him to sug­gest that Van­cou­ver needs to move away from its “small fish­ing town men­tal­ity” and em­brace a new role as an at­trac­tive metropoli­tan city that’s a mag­net for the world. Luck­ily for Cheung, he hopes to add “ar­chi­tec­turally in­ter­est­ing” tow­ers to the sky­line, thanks to deeper pock­ets than many devel­op­ers his age. Backed by money from his and Wang’s fam­ily (who are also in real es­tate in Shang­hai), the 20-strong Landa team is spend­ing $116 mil­lion to de­velop dual-tower Cas­cade City in Rich­mond and $30 mil­lion at its Chateau Lau­rier pro­ject on Oak Street. The com­pany is also co-de­vel­op­ing an­other two tow­ers to the tune of $600 mil­lion— with a new park and rental hous­ing, Cheung notes—on Al­berni Street in the West End. (The site sold in early 2016 for about $160 mil­lion, al­most twice the amount paid two years be­fore.)

Just don’t call them off­shore devel­op­ers. In 2015, news re­ports high­lighted the then-eye­pop­ping $11 mil­lion that Landa shelled out for the for­mer Bur­ritt Bros. site on Van­cou­ver’s Main Street—set to be­come a $30-mil­lion de­vel­op­ment of 42 new homes. Cheung won­ders whether the prop­erty would have got the ink if “some lo­cal Cau­casian” had bought it. “Any­way, through our projects and build­ings, we are go­ing to prove them oth­er­wise,” he adds of crit­ics. “I love the city—we’re heav­ily com­mit­ted here and want to be here long-term and grow our rep­u­ta­tion.”

Mean­while, he’d like any fu­ture off­spring to be raised in B.C. “You don’t think about how you’re grow­ing up in an as­tro­naut fam­ily when you’re in it,” Cheung says. “But if I had a fam­ily, I would re­ally want us to stick to­gether here.”

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