Kuafu Properties is one of the tempestuous threesome that is attempting to develop the Hudson Rise building. It is also a fast-moving company with a surprising history.

Kuafu Properties was relatively unknown before last year. In fact, when it went into contract for the Hudson Rise project in 2013, it had not yet fully assembled its real estate team. The Real Deal reports on its rapid ascent to prominence.

Since its inception just over a year ago, it has bought over $750 million in Manhattan real estate. Development sites include Hudson Rise, 143-155 East 60th Street, MiMa Tower, and East 86th Street and Lexington.  These high-profile projects have launched it onto New York’s real estate scene.

Its cofounders, Shang Dai and Zengliang “Denis” Shan, did not begin their professional careers in real estate. Dai studied law in Tianjin, a large coastal city near Beijing. Shan studied architecture, also in Tianjin, although at a different time than Dai.

After practicing law in China, Dai moved to the United States in 2002 to continue his career. After spending several years gaining a foothold in the U.S., he founded the law firm Dai & Associates. The firm began as a borough-centric organization in Flushing, but soon afterward opened an office in Shanghai. There it became a valuable partner for Chinese businesses looking to invest in the U.S. The firm began working with higher-profile Chinese clients and moved from the Flushing boroughs into Times Square.

Dai had developed a valuable niche: legal work in real estate, often negotiating between Chinese and American businesses.

Shan, meanwhile, was running an architectural company in China and living part-time in the U.S. The two men met at a networking event and saw an opportunity to make an impact in the real estate business.

Around that time, Sean Ludwick’s Blackhouse Development, along with former partners Saif Sumaida and Ashwin Verma at Siras Development, were looking for Chinese investors for the Hudson Rise project. Within a few weeks of meeting Dai and Shan, the developers went into contract on a $62 million acquisition of the Hudson Rise hotel.

Kuafu, Dai and Shan’s new development company, had officially formed by the next year when the deal was closed.

Since then, Kuafu, which means “beyond wealth”, has spent over $700 million on Manhattan projects. Its stated goal on its website is to be “the ultimate bridge between Chinese and other Asian investors to the overseas real estate market in the United States.”

At the moment, though, it seems to be burning bridges with its Hudson Rise partners. Siras, Kuafu and Blackhouse Development have accumulated numerous suits and countersuits against each other, and the public rhetoric has gotten ugly. Attempts at a negotiated settlement have stalled; the future of the project remains uncertain.

What is certain is that Kuafu has become a force to be reckoned with, and it is determined to leave its mark on Manhattan.

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